FortingallGlenn Lyon is the longest glen in Scotland and is rich in history. The most famous tale of the area is actually an enormous hoax regarding the village of Fortingall, which lies at the entrance to this beautiful highland glen, suggesting that the village was the birth place of Pontius Pilate.

In modern times Pilate is known as the man who, according to the canonical Christian Gospels, presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion, instigating the Passion.

According to the legend, Pointius Pilate was related to the Scottish King, Metallanus, whose home was a hill fortress called Dun Geal (the White Fort), at Fortingall. Pilate was supposedly born beneath the branches of the Fortingall yew.

Roman Military Camp at Ardoch (Braco) ScotlandThe fact is there is no evidence that the Romans were ever in that part of Loch Tay, although they did have military stations going over the Gask Ridge from Ardoch (Braco) to around Perth. Another fact is the Romans knew they had met their match when they crossed the border into what we know as Scotland.

One alternate history buff has a website devoted to alternate history and voices the theory that Pontius Pilate, born in Scotland, eventually travelled to Rome as a result of the Scottish/Roman connection and was later appointed Roman Procurator of Judea at the time of the crucifixion. To be fair, the words “could” are used throughout, but he has an entire page devoted to this legend.

Pilate StoneAlso discussed is an ancient stone slab found at Caesaria in Palestine, which is called the Pilate Stone because it has a Latin inscription that he believes reads “Hiberieum Pontius Pilatus”. At the time of Pilate the Romans knew the British Isles and Ireland as Hibernia.

Several other sources are in line with the following quote on the subject from Wikipedia, “The Pilate Stone is the name given to a block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, a prefect of the Roman-controlled province of Judea from 26-36. The stone was found in 1961 by a team of Italian archeologists and is significant because this is the only universally accepted archaeological find with an inscription mentioning the name “Pontius Pilatus” to date.

“The 82 cm x 65 cm limestone block, was found in 1961 in an excavation of an ancient theater built by decree of Herod the Great 30 BC, called Caesarea Maritima in the present-day city of Caesarea-on-the-Sea (also called Maritima). On the partially damaged block is a dedication to Tiberius Caesar Augustus. It has been deemed authentic because it was discovered in the coastal town of Caesarea, which was the capital of Iudaea Province during the time Pontius Pilate was Roman governor.

The partial inscription reads (conjectural letters in brackets):





The translation from Latin to English for the inscription reads: Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea, has restored the Tiberieum of the Seaman (or possibly, of the Caesareans)?”

For some reason, the lack of truth of the story is often ignored (as it was when author Dan Brown clearly stated that his book “The DaVinci Code” is a work of fiction).

No mention of the Fortingall legend existed until Sir Donald Currie a ship-owning Laird and MP, who purchased a Glen Lyon estate, which included the village of Fortingall in 1885.

Scottish historian Neil Hooper, told “The Times” last year that the first public mention of Pontius Pilate’s supposed link with the village of Fortingall in Perthsire was an article in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1899.

As the story goes, Currie, along with a group of his cronies (including Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Tennyson), concocted the elaborate tale after Curry boasted that his new real estate purchase was the birth place of Pontius Pilate.  He told them that it was so, because he found a stone with the initials P.P. engraved on it. The story gained traction through popular publications of the era. As a result, 126 years later people still speculate that it might be true.

Whether or not there is a kernel of truth in the story, the Fortingall yew  under which Pilate was supposedly born, has been living in its own reality at Fortingall for 2000–5000 years, is real.

Click on the link to read my article on the Fortingall yew tree.

Click on the link to read about the Pilate Stone in Wikapedia

Click on the link to the 2010 article in The Times.


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8 Comments on Pontius Pilate’s Scottish roots: Fact or fiction?

  1. Ted M. says:

    I’ve heard about the legend but the fact that it was a hoax is new to me. Some alternate history has some truth but much of the stuff on the Internet is pure fabrication or wishful thinking.

  2. Morton G. says:

    The Loch Ness Monster seem more believable.

  3. Jake says:

    I guess the good men of letters had nothing better to do. Perhaps it comes under the heading of the general public is stupid.

  4. AJ says:

    This is an amazing story and shows one how easily these stories get started. I like Morton’s comment about Nessie. I’ve read your article on the Fortingall Yew and it’s terrific.

  5. John Walker says:

    At that time most were born with silver spoons in their mouths so fall into the area of the “idle rich”. Left them plenty of time to make mischief. The yew would be enough to bring tourists to Fortingall.

  6. Vic says:

    So the story goes on, in this world of ‘explanations and facts’ it is good to enjoy a bit of conjecture. Long may this story circulate as does the mystery of the loch Ness monster who it is said was seen by Saint Columba.

  7. Serena Ulloa says:

    In many cases conjecture is wrong when the truth is known and one has to wonder about motives. In this case it was probably tourism. Interesting to hear about St. Columbus.

  8. Lily says:

    Such a deep anwser!

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