A most enjoyable visit to the Lamont Aisle this week, a dark vault beside the recently restored parish church of Kilfinan. The very obliging Sinclair Sutherland arranged for me to get access (the gate is usually locked) and to look at a fine collection of carved stones. This was quite a treat.
Standing on edge on the ground of the vault is a fine early medieval cross-slab (shown above, perhaps ninth-century in origin), ornately carved on one side with a tall ringed cross, its stem decorated with spirals and key-pattern, its central roundel filled with interlace, and with interlace and animal figures in panels beside it. On the other side another ringed cross, equal armed this time and made of interlace, has animals below it and below them interlaced roundels with dragon-like biting animals.
Later medieval stones commemorating chiefs of the Lamont Clan are also to be found here. In the thirteenth century, warrior imagery replaced the abstract and animal forms found on the earlier cross-slab. Should we infer from this change that there has been a change in ideology? Does it signify anything that the decorated cross has been replaced by images of armed and armoured chiefs? Perhaps it is merely a change in style and convention. Perhaps it reveals something else.
This is an important collection of stones, and the good news is that moves are afoot to have the Lamont Aisle remodelled, the stones conserved and redisplayed, to create what will be an exciting visitor attraction. Carefully mounted, well-lit and protected from damp, mould and bird-droppings, they will shed light on the life of the medieval church here in Cowal, and on the history of Clan Lamont.