On the east wall there is a remarkable sculptured frieze, 1ft. 8in broad. There is a gap in the stones towards the north side. The stones probably formed part of an altar reredos in some other part of the Abbey before the fire of 1408. The work would seem to be of a fifteenth century date.
It used to be thought that they were of much earlier date, and that the carving represented the seven sacraments of the Roman Church. ‘The reredos contains a range of sculptured images – those at the south side are three Priests standing and one sitting, and others in the attitudes of confessing, and others kneeling; next another Altar; next, a Priest standing administering Extreme Unction to a sick man; next are three Priests at Mass – Celebrant, Gospeller, and Epistler. In the centre of this Reredos or Altar-piece, there is a small vacancy, and a little North of this is the Holy Babe, with His Blessed Virgin Mother, Joseph, and the rest of the Holy Family, a man reading a book, and another holding by the Horns of the Altar. Some opine that the Seven Sacraments or the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy are hereon depicted. ‘ Gordon’s Monasticon, p. 563
The obvious subject is, however, Incidents in the Legendary Life of St. Mirin. (Lees, P.211) These as given in the Aberdeen Breviary, can be readily identified in the ten sculptured panels. Proceeding from left to right we see –
- Mirin’s mother bringing him when a child to St. Congal at Bangor.
- Conga vests Mirin in his monastic dress.
- Mirin takes up his work as Prior.
- Mirin, having gone on a mission to the Irish King, is driven away by a servant from the palace door.
- The King is punished by having to suffer the pains of labour instead of the Queen.
- The Queen in bed and a nurse holding the infant.
- The King begs Mirin’s forgiveness.
- The reconcilement of the King and Queen with Mirin.
- Mirin in his cell, illuminated with heavenly light, is seen by a brother monk through the key-hole of the door.
- Mirin restores a dead man to life.
From Paisley Abbey: It’s History, Architecture & Art by The Rev. A.R. Howell, M.A.