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Luss, churchyard surrounding Luss Parish Church

A Scheduled Monument in Lomond North, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.1003 / 56°6'0"N

Longitude: -4.6365 / 4°38'11"W

OS Eastings: 236108

OS Northings: 692852

OS Grid: NS361928

Mapcode National: GBR 0J.MNCD

Mapcode Global: WH2LL.RXBV

Entry Name: Luss, churchyard surrounding Luss Parish Church

Scheduled Date: 29 July 1964

Last Amended: 19 May 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2461

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: sculptured stone (not ascribed to a more specific type); Ecclesiastical:

Location: Luss

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Lomond North

Traditional County: Dunbartonshire


The monument is an ecclesiastical site which has continued in use probably from around the 6th century AD to the present day. The site comprises a burial ground containing early Christian, medieval and later graves and funerary monuments, together with buried remains of at least one church predating the current parish church, St Mackessog's, which was built in 1875 and is excluded from the scheduling. The monument lies about 10m above sea level on the west bank of Loch Lomond.

Two cross-slabs formerly located in the burial ground date the site to around the 6th century indicating that it originated in the early Christian period. A hogback stone still in the burial ground probably dates from the 11th century, and there are also several later medieval coped grave-covers. Archaeological evidence suggests that at least one earlier church and its graveyard may have been sited slightly to the south of the present church, which would accord with the general distribution of the earlier gravestones. Small-scale archaeological investigations in 2002-3 suggested that the foundations of two east-west aligned stone walls located immediately east of the present church may represent the remains of an earlier church.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes the whole of the present church and its footprint; all boundary walls and gates; the top 300mm of all paths, gravelled areas or grassed areas; all burial lairs where rights of burial still exist; and all memorial stones dating to later than 1850. The monument was last scheduled in 1964, but an inadequate area was included and the documentation did not meet current standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The site exhibits good field characteristic with a sub-circular burial ground and a significant collection of medieval grave markers. Small-scale archaeological excavations by Baker in 2002-3 indicate that buried remains also survive well. There is high potential for the survival of complex archaeological deposits, including evidence for a sequence of earlier churches and burials which can help chart the changing nature of Christian buildings, funerary practice and symbolism over more than 1000 years, and provide an insight into the changing relationship between church and burial ground.

Early use of the site is demonstrated by the recovery of cross slabs from around the 6th century, by the reference to stone coffins on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map, and by the hogback stone that still stands in the burial ground. The hogback is culturally significant in its own right. The stone has four rows of round-ended 'tiles' on the roof and researchers date it to the 11th century. The vertical sides were later re-cut probably in the 12th century; the north side carries a Romanesque arcade of nine bays (a row of round-headed arches) and the south side has a four-bay arcade.

Soil conditions will influence the extent to which bone survives in the burial ground, but there is potential for the survival of human remains that can reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death and, perhaps, the types of activities people undertook during life. Observations made during the insertion of drainage trenches near the east external wall of the church have revealed features including the foundation of the external stair of the 1771 church. Full survey of the graveyard has provided a plan showing the distribution and chronology of burial monuments, demonstrating that important gravestones occur both north and south of the present church (Baker 2004).

Contextual Characteristics

This monument is one of a rare group of sites where there is clear evidence for burial spanning a very long time period. It can be compared with other church sites in the Loch Lomond area to enhance our understanding of origin and development of places of worship within the region and the organisation of early medieval and later Christianity in western Scotland. Researchers suggest hogback stones in Scotland are distributed along coasts and routeways, and this example lies close to the Forth-Clyde route where people may have travelled between York and Ireland. It certainly indicates the presence beside Loch Lomond of high status people with Anglo-Scandinavian tastes. It can be compared with the hogbacks at Govan that are attributed to the 10th century. There is high potential to study the graves, memorials and early church remains in the context of the medieval settlement pattern in the vicinity.

The churchyard lies about 10m above sea level on the north bank of the Luss Water, less than 50m from the west shore of Loch Lomond. Today the vegetation inhibits views across the loch, but this may not always have been the case.

Associative Characteristics

The introduction and development of Christianity in Scotland was an enormously significant historical, social and cultural phenomenon. St. Kessog, to whom the church is dedicated, is said to have been martyred nearby and buried at Luss in the 6th century. A font and effigy reputedly found in a cairn marking the site of the saint's martyrdom are now in the church; the font is later medieval in date, while the effigy of a bishop is from the 13th or 14th centuries. Today, the church and graveyard are highly picturesque. The church remains in use and the church and burial ground are highly valued locally.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because of its inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of early ecclesiastical sites in Scotland and the spread of Christianity. It is particularly significant because of its longevity of use, and because a rare hogback stone and several medieval grave slabs remain in the burial ground.There is high potential for the survival of complex archaeological remains, including evidence for a series of earlier churches and associated graveyards dating back more than a thousand years. The site can enhance our understanding of the relationship between churches and their burial grounds and how this changed over time, and help us chart the development of buildings used for Christian worship, funerary practices and religious symbolism through centuries of major devotional change. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the origins, organisation and spread of Christianity in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 42529 (accessed on 18/04/2016).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 42548 (accessed on 18/04/2016).

West of Scotland Archaeology Service Sites and Monuments Record: WOSAS PIN 7091 (accessed on 18/04/2016).

Published sources

Cowan, I B. (1967) 'The parishes of medieval Scotland', Scot Rec Soc, 93. Edinburgh. p141.

Fisher, I. (2001) Early Medieval sculpture in the West Highlands and Islands. Edinburgh. 84-5.

RCAHMS 1978, The archaeological sites and monuments of Dumbarton District, Clydebank District, Bearsden and Milngavie District, Strathclyde Region, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland series, 3, Edinburgh. p14, No 78.

Unpublished Reports

Baker, F 2004, 'St MacKessog's, Luss Parish Church: Report on Archaeological Work carried out during the 2000-2003 Restoration Works to the Church and Cemetery'. Unpubl rep.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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