Maver Family

A one name study of the Mavers of Scotland

Christianity, the Stone and the First Mavor

Posted by Cai Maver, March 30, 2015

Saint Ninian is known as the Apostle to the Southern Picts. Ninian is said to have been a Briton who had studied in Rome. He traveled to Scotland and built a white stone church called Candida Casa (Latin for “glittering white hut”) in Whithorn, Galloway. This is believed to have happened in 397 AD, just before the Romans withdrew entirely from the Isle of Britain. From this church, Ninian is said to have preached to the Picts south of the Forth-Clyde line, converting them all to Christianity. Ninian is thus credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland.

Once Candida Casa was established, it became a destination for monks throughout Britain, Ireland and even continental Europe who sought monastic training. The Picts seem to have given up Christianity after Saint Ninian’s death--Saint Patrick refers to them as the ‘apostate Picts’ in his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus--but Candida Casa remained, and many later Irish and Scottish missionaries were trained there. As a Briton, Saint Ninian spoke a Brittonic-Celtic language, and this lends some evidence to the idea that the Picts also spoke a Brittonic-Celtic language, seeing as Saint Ninian was able to preach to them without the need of a translator

Just 30 miles from Candida Casa lies Kirkmadrine Church, which hosts the earliest Christian gravestones in Scotland. The first of these gravestones reads (translated from Latin), “Here lies the holy and excellent priests Viventius and Mavorius.” The stones are estimated to have been placed about 450 AD, and the prevailing theory is that Viventius and Mavorius were the priests who carried on the mission of St. Ninian after his death, preaching Christianity to the southern Picts. [1] [2]

Regarding the name Mavorius, several researchers contend that it is a romanized version of a Gaulish or British name. MacEwen states, “Viventius and Mavorius [were not] of Roman birth. Neither of the names is Roman, and the latter especially has the semblance of a Romanized British name”. [1] Thomas states that, “The name Mavorius is originally a British [Brittonic] one,” and Okasha agrees that it is a Celtic name.[3]

Interestingly, there was once a stone at Redruth, Cornwall (another Brittonic-speaking Celtic area) that was inscribed “MAVORI FI[LI] VITO[RI],” translated as “Mavorius son of Victor”. The stone was recorded in 1740, but by 1768 was lost when the church was rebuilt.[5]

While it is impossible to know if the men these stones memorialized are related to the modern Mavors of Scotland, it is interesting that the name is known to have been used so early in Scottish history. Indeed, the early date of the Kirkmadrine Stone places Mavor, in the Latinized form Mavorius, amongst the earliest recorded names in Scotland. This does tend to support the genetic evidence that the Mavers are descendants of the early Pictish or Celtic inhabitants of Scotland, rather than the later Saxon, Norman, or Flemish immigrants to north-east Scotland.

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1. MacEwen, Alexander Robinson. A History of the Church in Scotland: 397 – 1546. Hodder and Stoughton. 1913. Digital edition:
Note: see page 14

2: Hudson, Benjamin. The Picts. John Wiley & Sons. 2014. Page 143.

3: Gahan, Mike. “KMADR/1”. Celtic Inscribed Stones Project (CISP). University College London. 2000. URL:

4. Mitchell, Arthur MD. “Inscribed Stones at Kirkmadrine”. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Vol. 9. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 1872. URL:
Note: Image of stone from Plate XXXIX, pages 570-571 (digital page 674).

5: Gahan, Mike. “RDRTH/1”. Celtic Inscribed Stones Project (CISP). University College London. 2000. URL:

The Kirkmadrine stone inscribed with the names "Viventius et Mavorius".

The Kirkmadrine stone inscribed with the names "Viventius et Mavorius".