Anwoth Keystone

A.D. (Anno Domini) is carved into the Anwoth keystone.

The arched entrance to the old Anwoth Kirk (church) in Scotland. Letters carved into the Anwoth Keystone say A.D. for Anno Domini
The archway entrance to the old Anwoth Kirk, with the words ‘Built AD 1627’ carved into the stones. Photo by Girth Summit, cropped.

These are photos of the Anwoth old kirk (church) in Scotland where Samuel Rutherford was the pastor from 1627 to 1638. Anwoth Old Church is a crumbling stone church building which was built in 1626 to serve the parish of Anwoth in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

Anwoth Keystone Mystery?

Why are the words “BUILT AD 1627” carved into the stone archway?. The letters A.D. are chiseled into the Anwoth Keystone, at the top of the arch. A.D. stands for the Latin phrase Anno Domini, which translates to “In the year of our Lord.” A.D. is commonly used to mark years after the birth of Jesus.

Anwoth Old Kirk (Church) was built in 1626; but the inscription in the arch above its doorway shows a date of 1627. Historians believe the words were chiseled into the stone archway much later — influenced by the date when Samuel Rutherford started his ministry to the local congregation.

Anwoth Old Kirk. This photo was taken  at the ruins of the old church in Anwoth, Scotland. The archway has the words: BUILT AD 1627 carved into the stones, with AD carved into the Anwoth keystone.
A photo of stone wall, archway, and historical plaque on the Anwoth Old Kirk. Photo by Girth Summit, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Anwoth Old Kirk

Closeup of historical plaque on the Anwoth Old Kirk building. Samuel Rutherford was the minister from 1627 to 1638.
A closeup of the historical plaque, on the wall above the archway. Photo by Girth Summit, cropped, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The plaque on the wall, above the archway reads as follows:
Anwoth Old Kirk, Samuel Rutherford, Minister from 1627 – 1638. Professor of divinity and principal of St. Mary’s College, 1647-1661: Buried in the cathedral grounds, St. Andrews 1661. Counsellor in the Westminster Assembly of Divines; author of famous “Letters” and “Lex Rex“; preacher of permanent renown; reformer and defender of the faith.

Monument erected to his memory on the near-by hill, 1842. “Fair Anwoth, by the Solway”. “Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land”.

Historical Notes From the Free Presbyterian Church

“Some visitors to the ivy-clad ruins of Rutherford’s church in Anwoth are surprised by two things: the smallness of the building and the isolation of the beautiful spot. They wonder at the greatest preacher in Scotland in his day labouring for nine years in an obscure part of the country, among a people sparsely scattered over a wide area. But a bond had been forged between the soul of Samuel Rutherford and his Anwoth flock that remained intact to the end of his days – a fact that is beautifully brought out by Mrs Cousin’s verse, based on Rutherford’s own words”:

Fair Anwoth by the Solway,
To me thou still art dear.
Ev’n from the verge of heaven
I drop for thee a tear.
O, if one soul from Anwoth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens
In Immanuel’s land.

One of the ‘forgotten verses’ from Immanuel’s Land (Sands of Time)
Anwoth Old Kirk - - 2605609 by Walter Baxter is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.  Built AD 1627, chiseled into the arch. Anwoth keystone.
Carved inscription on the arch of Anwoth Old Kirk says: Built AD 1627. (This photo is cropped and modified from the original image.)
Anwoth Old Kirk – – 2605609” This photo by Walter Baxter is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Anwoth Keystone Unlocks the Mystery of History

In God’s providence, the AD chiseled on the keystone, points to Jesus Christ at the epicenter of history.

“The soteriology of grace outlined in Rutherford… has as it’s keystone the fact that it is God and God alone who saves man. The bulk of Rutherford’s life and writing were devoted to this concept.” ~ David Strickland, University of Edinburgh, 1972

This keystone is important to me because I am a follower of Jesus. Also, because I and my team at Five More Talents, were privileged to work on the Free Presyterian Church website, and the Westminster Assembly website projects over the past several years.

An Arch Without a Keystone?

While researching this article, I found an interesting quote from J.C. Ryle, on page 10 of this pdf:

“You may know the several precepts of the Bible and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have read your Bible hitherto to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a keystone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.”

Anwoth Keystone, Anwoth Kirk – Related Articles

Keystone Motif

When a keystone is placed into position, at the top of an arch, it locks all the other stones in place, completing the archway. A keystone motif features the classic keystone design of stone arches found in ancient Roman architecture. Read more… 

Build It Slow

“If you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely. Small beginnings, greater ends, heartfelt work grows purely.” A story about rebuilding a church, and investing time in people. Read more

Sands of Time Are Sinking

The Sands of Time Are Sinking (T4G). The Sands of Time Are Sinking, words from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), transformed into a song by Anne Ross Cousin (1857). Melody by Connie Dever (2014). Click here to read the lyrics and listen to the music video, recorded in 2016

Bibliography, Related Links and Resources

  1. Anwoth Old Church – article on Wikipedia ~ reviewed on 21-Aug-2023
  2. Samuel Rutherford – Fair Anwoth by the Solway – 1627 to 1636 – Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland ~ reviewed on 21-Aug-2023
  3. The Writings of Samuel Rutherford – via the Westminster Assembly Project ( ~ reviewed on 21-Aug-2023
  4. Letters of Samuel Rutherford (823 page pdf) – via Monergism ~ reviewed on 22-Aug-2023
  5. Letters of Samuel Rutherford (746 pages) – via ~ reviewed on 22-Aug-2023
  6. Lex, Rex (The Law and the Prince) – transcript – via University of Michigan ~ reviewed on 22-Aug-2023
  7. Union With Christ in the Theology of Samuel Rutherford – An Examination of His Doctrine of the Holy Spirit – A dissertation by David Strickland, University of Edinburgh, 1972 (page 81) ~ reviewed on 23-Aug-2023
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