The Ballachly Stone
The Ballachly Stone (left) was discovered in 1996 during the demolition of a 19th century farm building less than 200m from Chapel Hill. It represents an early tradition (c.7th century) of Christian stone-carving in northern Scotland, distinct from the better-known Pictish symbol stones and cross slabs of the area and perhaps showing the influence of Iona and Ireland. It was probably an upright pillar which may have marked a focus for worship or the boundary of a sacred area. So far only the upper part of the stone has been found, showing a cross with expanded arms which probably had a long shaft.
The manner in which the vertical shaft overlies the cross-arm may reflect the early use of wooden crosses. The spirals at the corners of the arms are found on carvings on Iona and Ireland. The spokes that they contain perhaps represent stars, with the large one and the curved hook on the upper arm being the sun and moon. This hook may also stand for the P-shaped Greek letter Rho which was often combined with the cross to form Chi-Rho, the first letters of Christ’s name in Greek. Another early symbol of Christ was the fish, and the salmon facing the centre of the cross-head probably has this meaning.
Three adjoining fragments of a second carved cross (right) have also been found in the same vicinity. The style of the carving is later (c.8th century) and is of high quality. These fragments point to the development of a high-status ecclesiastical establishment at Chapel Hill from the early medieval period.