A 19th-century illustration of the Govan Sarcophagus

Heart of the Kingdom

Govan Sarcophagus
The famous sarcophagus at Govan was discovered on Friday 7 December 1855 by the sexton of the old parish church as he dug a new grave in the kirkyard. It lay a couple of feet below the surface, having been deliberately buried at some unknown date. Modern scholars now believe that it was carved around AD 900, that it orginally contained a human corpse and that it was created as a public monument to be displayed and viewed. Soon after it was unearthed, perhaps within days, it was moved to another part of the kirkyard and enclosed by wooden railings. During this process it sustained significant damage, especially to the two long side-panels containing the richest sculpture. The horizontal crack seen in the drawing above (and still visible today) is the most obvious of these injuries.

The first published report of the monument’s discovery appeared in the Proceedings of the…

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