During a routine inspection, conservationists found at least a dozen previously unrecorded saint-like figures on the back of Bishop Cardeny’s resting place at Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire.
Bishop Cardeny was appointed by Pope Benedict VIII in 1399 and was the longest serving bishop at Dunkeld.
The tomb was created in 1420 and the carvings were found on the side that was against a wall, hiding them from view.
The unearthing of the stone carvings has shed new light on the history of the site, revealing the tomb has at some point been moved and built into the wall from its original free-standing location.
Colin Muir, a stone conservator at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said: “The discovery of these rare, hidden carvings behind the 15th-century tomb of Bishop Cardeny is very exciting and will enrich our understanding of the history of Dunkeld Cathedral and late medieval stone carving.
“This discovery also gives fresh incentive for further research and exploration of the site, as we still don’t know when exactly the tomb was moved, or why.
“This discovery also hints there may still be other obscured areas of detail preserved within the walls behind the tomb.
“Conservation works to protect the fabric of the tomb are currently being planned, and we hope to undertake further investigation of what may lie behind it. At this stage, we don’t know what, if anything, remains . But it will be fascinating to find out.”
Following the discovery of the carvings, a second, more in-depth assessment was recently carried out using cutting-edge 3D photogrammetric technology.
A detailed 3D model was created by obtaining multiple images using cameras and mirrors, enabling a closer look at the carvings.
Dunkeld Cathedral – on the north bank of the River – is one of more than 300 Historic Scotland properties across the country which are managed by HES.
The site has long been an important ecclesiastical centre.
Relics of St Columba were brought there from Iona by King Kenneth McAlpin in 849.
The cathedral was developed over around 250 years, with the earliest surviving section – the choir – dating from the late 1200s.