This is oldest known stone in the church yard and is Pre-Reformation. It is a late medieval grave slab, probably 14th or 15th century, known locally as the Crusader’s Stone.
Originally it may have been placed within the church. In the pre-Reformation period high status individuals were buried within the church. Post-Reformation this was forbidden. The slab was found in 1909 abandoned and broken in the SW corner of the graveyard while scrub was being cleared. This is the upper part we have here. It sat at the church door for many years before being moved indoors about 15 years ago (roughly 2007) to protect it from the weather.
The Scottish Reformation of 1560 was the process by which Scotland broke with the papacy and developed a predominantly Calvinist national kirk which was strongly Presbyterian in its outlook.
The carving has a plain cross, a sword whose guards cross the marginal band and the cross shaft. It has two areas of geometrical design, a circular shape in the top right and an area of geometrical pattern running vertically down the lower left side. Compared with some of the carved stones from further north with intricate interlacing knot work, the carving on this stone appears somewhat less skillfully done. It has been suggested the patterns at the top right and the panel on the left side are an attempt to imitate some early knotwork carving.
The following are comments made by Dr Ian Fraser from Historic Environment Scotland: -
The Kilmaronock slab is an interesting one - I've not seen it in the flesh - but we have a number of shots of it from the 1970s/80s. Obviously no date, but from its general form - a broad rectangular slab, I would go for 14th or probably 15th century. The plain cross would also push me towards the later date.
The geometrical design is an oddity. I don't think that it is that worn - I suspect we are seeing it as it was intended. I think perhaps the sculptor was familiar with knotwork and interlace, but didn't have the understanding or visual memory of how to construct it. To be able to cut a large slab like this to an approximate rectangle is a significant achievement of masonry, but the ability to lay out an incised design consistent with an artificial artistic convention requires different skills and perception.
I suspect that the mason had seen interlace (possibly have seen a worn or obscured original), and knew that a slab 'should' have a panel of it, so introduced something comparable. There are interesting parallels to this at other sites - Balquhidder's medieval stones have a number of similar abstract designs that may be derived from interlace/knotwork. The intersection of the arms of the cross, and the fact that the guard of the sword crosses the marginal band and the cross-shaft also point to the mason's lack of conventional awareness.