Examples of Knots in Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Govan Old Church stands on the banks of the River Clyde. It is a Victorian Church, but there have been previous churches on the site for a very long time. The boundary of the churchyard is curved rather than rectangular like an ordinary churchyard, and it is beleived that it may date back to the 5th century. Bones from a grave there have been radio-carbon dated to that time. Inside the church (which is not always open - see below for details of their website) are about 30 carved stones which were originally in the churchyard but were brought under cover in Victorian times. There are several 'hogbacks', stones which look like an upturned boat but are probably the shape of Viking church roofs (see right). There are several crosses with Celtic knots and mounted figures. These were laid flat rather than upright. Finally, there is a magnificent carved sarcophagus. The stones are in various styles, mostly Viking, but also Pictish and even Saxon. There are unfortunately no inscriptions (except later ones where the stones were reused as gravestones). The quality of the carving is so good that it is thought that these were the burial stones of Strathclyde kings. Govan Old Church's website is here - click on Goval Old Friends to see when the church to open to visit.

Some of the following knots are double stranded, which is easier for carving designs. Click here for a discussion of this.

Hogback stone in Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Sarcophagus

Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This is the sarcophagus. I leave this end as an exercise for the reader. I can work out parts of it, but I'm quite sure that some parts get tucked behind others and disappear!

Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This is the other end of the sarcophagus. There is just one string, but I have coloured it in three colours to show how the knot works. It has double strands.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This is one side end of the sarcophagus.

Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Pattern on left

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This pattern has 6 elements, all the same. This helps to fit it into the space, unlike the previous pattern. There are two strings. It has double strands.


Pattern towards right


From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Here there is only one string, but I've coloured it in with four colours to show how the knot works. It has double strands.

This is the other side end of the sarcophagus. The left-hand pattern looks like a regular pattern, but in fact various strings seem to end abruptly and get tucked under others!

Govan Old Church, Glasgow Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Govan Old Church, Glasgow

The right-hand pattern is far more regular. There are three strings. I coloured one red and pink to disentangle how the knot works. I must point out that the middle top knot is a reconstruction, as the top edge seems damaged. But all the rest seem to be so regular, so I assume that one is as well.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow
From Govan Old Church, Glasgow



Crosses

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Although some of the strings are marked with double strands, most of them aren't, so I've left it out. The two bottom knots are the same, I assume, although the bottom right corner is damaged. The top two knots start as reflections of each other, but there is rather a muddle along the top, and a string added to fill in room!

This cross is quite difficult to design as a symmetrical pattern. Here is my attempt.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Govan Old Church, Glasgow

Another cross. In the background, you can see part of two hogbacks.

In the cross, the right arm is a separate knot, while the left one is connected. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the sculptor tried to connect one arm, didn't like it and decided not to do the other! Flanking the cross are two twisted snakes.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow
From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

In fact, it's quite possible to connect both arms quite firmly, as this design shows. (I left the snakes alone - I like them!)

Another cross. This is single strand.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

There is the same knot at top and bottom, each with a single string. I've coloured this red and pink so you can see how the knot works.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

The main knot is very confusing to work out. It looks like a regular knot, but in several places there is an end carfefully tucked under another string so you don't see it. Most turns on the sides turn through a right angle, but one turns back in the same direction. On the right, there is a muddle. It looks as if a string was turned two early (in green), so there are two loose ends flapping around (blue and red)! I could be wrong here - but that is what is looks like. The bottom lefthand corner should logically join up, but it doesn't seem to. There are (according to my interpretation) three strings, but I've coloured one in pale and dark blue so you can see what is happening.

Here are two similar designs of my own based on this knot. For the first, since the original seems to have a tail, bottom right, I've added a snake's head top left. In the second, I've taken the twiddle in the top left, and put it all the way round.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Govan Old Church, Glasgow
Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This cross has a Pictish symbol at the top. There are four snakes coming out of a central circle.

The Celtic knot is more angular. I think there is a mistake near the bottom left hand edge - I've marked it in brown. There is one string (even allowing for this mistake - it just makes it one tring with ends, rather than a continuous string). I've coloured it in pink and red, though, so you can see how the knot works. It has a single strand.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

There is an odd thing about this pattern. There are four corner flourishes which join to a diamond shaped pattern in the middle. The whole pattern looks square, and the diamond is a tilted square. That should mean that the corners join the middle of the edges of the diamond, but they don't. A cerain amount of fudging with different angles of slope disguise this. I have tried to extend the idea of the pattern, below. The first one is very similar to the original pattern. I have corrected what I think is the original mistake, and I have smoothed the edges to make a rectangular pattern. The other two patterns are redrawn as squares, and put the join of the corners in the middle of the edges of the diamond. The middle pattern below is similar to the left and right of the original pattern, while the right pattern is more like the top and bottom.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

This cross has several Celtic knots, which seem more regular than most of the Govan knots.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

The top one is hard to see at the ends, but I think this is the pattern. There are four strings, and it is a pleasant regular knot.It has single strands.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

The middle knot has two longer strings (single strand) and three rings.

The next pattern is not a knot. It is a triangular Greek key pattern.

From Govan Old Church, Glasgow From Govan Old Church, Glasgow

The bottom knot has only one string (single strand). I have coloured it in four colours to show how it works. There are gaps where it has been damaged.

I haven't done my own versions of these knots as the originals seem regular and attractive.

Govan Old Church, Glasgow


There are more Celtic knots from Scotland here.

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© Jo Edkins 2011