St Serf’s Church, Dunning, Perthshire, Scotland

Dunning is a small village situated about 10 miles S.W. of the city of Perth in central Scotland. The village is situated in a rich arable landscape which has been occupied since Neolithic times. Close by is Forteviot, an even smaller village now but formerly a Pictish power base and premier ritual complex in the East of Scotland.

Dunning was an important village and political centre in medieval times, a feature which is reflected in the history and architecture of the church summary details of which are as follows:

  • First mentioned in a charter of Inchaffray Abbey of 1219 but remains of an old doorway and other clues suggest a much older, pre-Romanesque, church possibly connected to the cult of St. Serf ( AD500-AD583).
  • The impressive Romanesque steeple, which is tapered in three unequal stages, pre-dates the rest of the church being built around AD 1200-1219.
  • The Laird’s loft ( additional seating gallery) was added in 1687 at the east end.
  • The interior was re-constructed and enlarged by Alexander Bowie around 1810.
  • At the base of the tower (inside) is a 8th or 8th century carved slab featuring a Celtic cross and figuration.This was discovered during renovation work and helps to confirm the antiquity of the site.

Dunning Church, formerly used for Presbyterian worship, is now a museum cum visitor attraction principally because inside is housed the 9th century Dupplin Cross which, for about 1200 years stood exposed on the landscape at nearby Forteviot.

An image of the Dupplin Cross is provided below. In essence, it is:

  • a free-standing cross of Old Red Sandstone 2.6m high and 0.9m wide at arms;
  • heavily ornamented on all for sides with spiral work, square and diagonal key patterns and interlaced work, surrounding figures of men, animals and birds; and
  • believed to depict a royal personage, possibly Constantine ( c. 789-820 AD).

Dupplin Cross, St Serf’s Church, Dunning

Close up of carving, possibly King Constantine, on Dupplin Cross.

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