A Brief History of the Mercat Cross

Mercat crosses can be found throughout Scotland, and represent a town or village’s right to hold a regular market or fair; a right granted by the monarch, local bishop, or landowner from predominantly the 14th century through to the 17th century.

A focal point for the town, all sorts of ceremonies and gatherings took place around the mercat cross, from royal proclamations to punishments and executions for crimes.

Some mercat crosses are still used to this day from royal proclamations to political rallies.

An example of the deep royal connections and mercat crosses. This plaque can be found attached to the Inverkeithing mercat cross situated on Bank Street.

Despite the name, mercat crosses differed from ecclesiastical crosses, which marked the gathering point for Christian worshippers, and so often do not actually feature a cross, but are topped by a symbol of the Scottish monarchy, such as a lion or unicorn, or the coat-of-arms of the local lord. Although as you will discover with us, they can also be topped with a number of things – from sundials, weather vanes, and gargoyles.

There are over 120 mercat crosses in Scotland, from Lerwick in the far north, to Kirkcudbright in the deep south. Many can no longer be found in their original locations, having been moved elsewhere, or removed altogether. In some towns a marking in the cobbles of the street is all that remains. Some mercat crosses seen today are replicas from the Victorian era, but many fine originals still stand and can be visited to this day. 🦁🦄