The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Winckley Lowes II, Near Hurst Green, Lancashire

Map of Winckley Lowes, Bronze Age barrows, Lancashire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 70843 37313. In a farmer’s field 1 mile to the south-east of Hurst Green, Lancashire, is a large tree-clad mound (bowl barrow) which is called Winckley Lowes II or Loe Hill. This particular mound has only recently been identified as a Bronze Age burial site. It lies some 200m to the southeast of a smaller burial mound (tumulus) called Winckley Lowes I. Both sites are located in fields opposite the River Ribble. In the Summer and Autumn the local farmer grows tall maze crops here and so the two burial mounds are difficult to see and, as they are on private land, they can not really be reached. The Winckley Lowes II mound was examined by local antiquarians in the early and late 19th century, but no University-based excavations have, as yet, taken place here. At least two footpaths heading south-eastwards from the B6242 road between Hurst Green and Great Mitton, near the bridges, are the best bet to reach the site; then follow The Ribble Way running east beside the river to the former boathouse (now a private house). The tree-clad mound of Winckley Lowes II lies across the fields 140m to the northeast of this building. 

It’s not a good idea, however, to visit the mounds when the maze crops are growing tall. When the crops have been cut back in the Autumn it is possible to see both mounds from the footpath beside the river Ribble, or from either of the two metal gates at either side of the boathouse; and if you do go further into the fields to get a closer view it is probably best to walk along the edges of the fields when ‘they’ have been ploughed. 

The grassy mound, bowl barrow or round barrow, has trees growing from its sides and summit. It is about 6m (20 feet) high and has dimensions of approx. 42 x 38 metres (137 ft x 124 ft). It has the look of being a naturally-formed hillock or knoll that was formed many thousands of years ago. 

The late John Dixon (1993) says of this site that: “The second, larger, mound is known as Loe Hill and has only recently been declared man-made. No major excavation work has been carried out on the mound and its purpose remains uncertain. Some suppose that it was built after the Battle of Billington in A.D. 798; towards the close of the 8th century the Anglo-British kingdom of Northumbria was fraught with internal conflict.”

Mr Dixon adds that: “It is also possible to see the mound as a Bronze Age earthen bowl-barrow; consequently, one could put the barrow into the wider pattern of Bronze Age settlement in the area. Its close proximity to Winckley Lowe might indicate that the site had some ritual significance. Given the lack of dateable remains the site must remain the subject of speculation.”

Author Ron Freethy (1988) further adds to that uncertainty and says that: “Billington has its roots way back in Saxon times; the important battle of Billangahoh was fought there in 798 AD. The tumuli found close to the spot are said to be the burial mounds but no bones or artefacts have yet come to light. The name of Billington was mentioned in Domesday as was nearby Langho with its ancient church, repaired in 1684 using stones from the ruins of Whalley Abbey.”

The site entry for Winkley Lowes II mound (in the parish of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley) in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) says:- “(b) Excavated by Whitaker in 1815. The whole, as far the investigation proceeded, was made up of large water gravel, mixed with exceedingly tough marle, of which there is a bed by the river side. The labour and expense of removing such materials was found so great, that we were compelled to desist before we had arrived at the centre, so that unfortunately nothing was found. Also excavated by Fr. Luck (from Stoneyhurst College. See link, below), September, 1894. Trench 10 feet wide from south-east to centre in four steps. Found earlier excavators’ trench with mussel shells, potsherds, clay pipes and two coins of 1806 (? Whitaker, but why not coins of 1815?). Combination of slate-coloured clay and ice-striated limestone convinced excavator that mound is natural.”  

John Dixon (1993) adds further to the above sites saying that: “A third mound once stood across the river at Brockhall Eases. During the summer of 1836 Thomas Hubbersty, the farmer at Brockhall, was removing a large mound of earth when he discovered a stone-lined cist. This was said to contain human bones and the rusty remains of some spearheads of iron. The whole crumbled to dust on exposure to air. Given that the spearheads were made of iron, one is tempted to describe it as a 1st millennium B.C. burial.”

Sources/references and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Freethy, Ron, The River Ribble, Terence Dalton Limited, Lavenham, Suffolk, 1988.

Lancashire Archeological Bulletin, Vol. 10 No. 2/3, May & July 1984.

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/modules.php?op=modload&name=a312&file=index&do=showpic&pid=12695

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/3015/loe_hill.html#images

http://www.jesuit.org.uk/pause-for-prayer/3753/prayer/nojs

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2017/09/14/winckley-lowes-i-near-hurst-green-lancashire/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.

 

 


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The Maiden Stone, Chapel Of Garioch, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Maiden Stone, Chapel of Garioch.

OS Grid Reference: NJ 70378 24714. About 1 mile to the northwest of the village called Chapel of Garioch, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, there is a very tall carved stone slab known as The Maiden Stone or The Drumdurno Stone, which has Pictish symbols on one side and a Christian cross on the other. This carved stone, standing beside a country road, is thought to date from the 8th or 9th century AD, and was probably carved at the time when the Picts of eastern Scotland were being Christianized. There are one or two Legends about a confrontation that took place here between a local maiden and the devil and, this seems to be where the name ‘Maiden Stone’ originates. As it is located near Drumdurno farm the stone gets its other name from that local place-name. Chapel of Garioch is 4 miles northwest of Inverurie and just off the A96. To reach the monument head to Chapel of Garioch village and, at the old post office, follow the minor road northwest for ½ a mile. The stone stands beside the road on the opposite side of the woodland, just before the entrance to Crowmallie House.

This tall Class II Pictish symbol stone and cross-slab is highly decorated although some of the carvings are now quite faint due to weathering. It is 10 foot high (3.2m) and is made of a pinkish-red granite. A triangular chunk or notch of stone is missing from the monument at one side about three-quarters of the way up and maybe some of the carvings too. The carving of a man with outstretched arms on the front of the stone may be a depiction of Christ; the carving of a ringed cross also on the front face would suggest that the Picts of eastern Scotland were Christianized at the time that this carving was made – perhaps in the early 8th century AD?

The Maiden Stone by Alexander inkson-Mccon-nochie (1890).

Elizabeth Sutherland (1997) gives her description of the stone and its carvings: “Front: divided into five panels: (1) above a cross find a man with arms outstretched and fish monsters with spiral tails on either side of him; (2) a ringed cross with round hollow armpits with all ornamentation defaced; in (3) and (4) no trace of sculpture remains; (5) spiral and knot-work decoration. Back: four panels reading from the top: (1) several defaced beasts; (2) a notched rectangle & Z-rod. A triangular section has been broken off the stone between these top two panels on the right following a natural crack in the granite; (3) a Pictish beast and (4) a mirror & double-edged comb. Both sides: decorated with very worn interlace. Comment: The Maiden Stone is one of the few Class II cross-slabs to be found in Aberdeenshire and may belong to the second half of the 9th century, thus post-dating the reign of Kenneth Mac Alpin. Political changes in the south may have had little immediate effect on the artistic traditions of the Picts here.”

Author Joyce Miller (2000) has a slightly different view of the stone carvings. She says that: “At the head of the front of the stone, a man stands with arms outstretched, holding a sea-monster in each hand. Below this group is a ringed cross, with traces of interlaced decoration at either side. At the foot of the cross there appears to have been a large and intricately patterned disc, with triangular knots filling out the external corners. The back of the stone is less weathered and shows several beasts of various descriptions in the top panel; below is a large notched rectangle and z-rod; below that is a fine Pictish beast; and at the bottom is a mirror and double-sided comb.”

The site entry for Maiden Stone (HMSO 1959), says this is: “The most famous of the Early Christian monuments in Aber-deenshire, this stone is associated with several weird legends formerly current in the Garioch. On one side it displays a richly ornamented Celtic cross and other decoration in the same style, and on the other side are Pictish symbols.”

Miller (2000) also tells of a story about the stone. She says that: “One story concerning the origin of the stone is that a daughter of the Lord of Balquhain made a bet with the devil that she could bake bread before he could build a road to the summit of the high hill of Bennachie. The devil won the bet, of course, and when the woman fled she was turned into the stone, either by the devil or to prevent her going to hell.”  Another story/legend tells that the maiden married a stranger who turned out to be the devil and that he finished the road and claimed the forfeit. The maiden ran from the devil and prayed to be saved. The legend finishes by saying that God turned her to stone, and the notch in the stone is where the devil grasped her shoulder as she tried to run away, according to Wikipedia.

Sources and related websites:

 H. M. S. O.,  Ancient Monuments – Scotland, (Volume VI),  H. M. Stationary Office, Edinburgh, 1959.

Jackson, Anthony, The Pictish Trail, The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989.

Miller, Joyce, Myth and Magic – Scotland’s Ancient Beliefs & Sacred Places, Goblinshead, Musselburgh, Scotland, 2000.

Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1997.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiden_Stone

http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/presocialhistory/prehistory/stonesandcircles/pictish/maiden/index.html

https://canmore.org.uk/site/18978/chapel-of-garioch-the-maiden-stone

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/maiden-stone/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018. 


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The Sagranus Stone, St Dogmael’s, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), Wales

The Sagranus Stone at St Dogmael’s.

OS Grid Reference: SN 16404 45914. In the mid-19th century parish church of St Thomas the Apostle in the village of St Dogmael’s (Llandudoch), Pembrokeshire, is The Sagranus Stone, a 5th century pillar-stone which is inscribed with both Ogham and Latin inscriptions to the memory of Sagranus, son of Cunotamus. There are some other Early Medieval stones in this church though these would be called cross-slabs rather than inscribed stones. Close by the church are the ruins of the 12th century St Mary’s abbey of the French Tironesian religious order but, a long time before that, there was a Celtic ‘clas-type’ monastery here in the 5th century which had been established by St Dogmael, a Welsh monk who was born in the local area. This early Christian monastery was, however, destroyed by the invading Danes in 987 AD. The village of St Dogmael’s, also called Llandudoch, lies 1 mile southwest of Cardigan (over the river Teifi) and 3 miles northwest of Cilgerran. St Thomas’ parish church is located on Church Street and the abbey ruins are next to the church. 

Sagranus Stone.

The Sagranus Stone stands in the west end of the nave of St Thomas’ parish church and it has for some time now been recognized by scholars of Early Christian inscribed stones as being of great importance. It is a 7 feet high dolerite pillar-stone and is thought to date from the late 5th or early 6th century AD, that being the immediate years following the Roman retreat from Wales. This ancient stone probably came from the original cell (llan) of the Celtic monastery. There are two holes in the slab which means that in the past it was used as a gate post, and it may even have been in use as a sort of stepping stone over a stream; maybe this caused the stone to be broken into two pieces. But as a bilingual inscribed stone with its Ogham cipher inscription of notches or strokes on its edges and the Latin (Roman) inscription on its face – it’s safety is now assured. Back in 1848 the strokes on the ancient pillar-stone enabled scholars and historians to de-cipher (interpret) the Ogham alphabet. Ogham was the early Goidelic/Gaelic) language of Ireland. Both inscriptions, once they are translated, read as the same. 

HMSO/DoE (1975) says that: “1 Rough pillar stone of the early sixth century……. On the face is an inscription in two lines of Roman capitals, running downwards: SAGRANI FILI CVNOTAMI. On the dexter edge is an inscription in Ogham characters, which reads:  SAGRAGNI MAQI CVNATAMI. Both indicate that the stone was set up to mark the grave of the local chieftain, Sagranus, the son of Cunotamus. Ogham is a cipher, in which strokes arranged in relation to a vertical stem—in this case the angle of the stone—are used to represent the letters of the Latin alphabet. The system, which was evolved in Ireland, is found on a number of early inscriptions in Wales where it is generally employed, as here, with a Latin transliteration.” 

HMSO/DoE also give details of the other pre-Romanesque stones in the church: “2 Part of headstone now in the parish church near the south door. On the face is slightly incised Maltese cross in a circle. Small headstones of this type were in common use from the ninth to the eleventh century; this example is early in the series. 3 Base of a tall stone pillar now standing reversed near the pulpit in the parish church. On the face is incised the lower arm of a cross with a swollen foot enclosing spirals and a basal knob; the out-turned lines at the broken upper edge of the pillar indicate the beginning of the cross. Pillars of this type with incised crosses were set up for commemorative purposes in the cemetery and in other parts of Celtic monasteries. The elaborate cross is probably not earlier than the ninth century. 4 Part of the cover slab of a grave, originally some 6ft by 14in by 11in thick. On the upper surface is a Maltese cross in a circle with a long shaft and swollen foot enclosing spirals and a basal knob. Rather later than number 3; probably eleventh century.” There are several other Medieval stones but they are located in the abbey precinct outside. 

Donald Gregory (1991) adds that: “Between the south door of the church and the north entrance to the abbey ruins should be noted a very old yew, which is so large that it has had a three feet high brick wall built to contain it.” 

The abbey of St Mary was founded in 1115 by Robert Fitz Martin, Lord of Cemais, as a daughter house of the Abbey of Tiron in France, on the site of a Celtic (clas) monastery. However, the Celtic monastery was destroyed by the invading Vikings in 987 AD. The monks of St Mary’s were members of the Tironesian Order, founded at Tiron between Chartres and Le Mans (1114) by St Bernard of Abbeville (1046-1117). The order of Tiron followed closely the Benedictine Rule and, in accordance with that, the monks at St Mary’s led a simple and austere life much influenced by the self-disciplined austerity of St Benedict. St Mary’s had dependencies at Caldey and Pill in Wales. In 1536 the abbey was dissolved but the church and conventual buildings remained intact with some reconstruction taking place; and then it was put into parochial (parish) use, while the rest of the monastic buildings were allowed to fall into a ruinous state. The 14th century doorway of the abbey church retains its carved flower ornamentation. In the north transept there are Medieval carvings on corbels which depict Christ’s apostles, the eagle of St John the Evangelist and St Michael. Later, in 1848 a new church, dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, was built from the stone of the old abbey. 

Not that much is actually known about St Dogmael, Dogfael, Dogwell or Toel, who has given his name to this Pembrokeshire village, apart from that he was a native of Ceredigion (Cardigan) just across the river Teifi. He was the son of King Ithel ab Ceredig ab Cunedda Wledig. Apparently he gained his monastic training in Ireland, but came back to settle on the Isle of Anglesey – where Llandogwel church is dedicated to him. Then, later he sailed down the Cardigan coast and established a monastery inland at what became St Dogmael’s (Llandudoch) near the river Teifi. Another church is named after him at St Dogwells, Pembrokeshire, but it seems he died in Brittany about 505 AD, where he goes under the name of St Toel. He is titular saint of the church of Pommerit Jaudy in the diocese of Trequier, Brittany. David Hugh Farmer (1982) says that: “It is likely, but not certain, that he moved to Brittany where a St. Dogmeel or Toel has had a considerable cultus, and is invoked to help children to learn to walk.” His feast day is celebrated on 14th June.

Sources and related websites:-

Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward Ltd., London, 1981. 

Farmer, David Hugh, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1982.

Gregory, Donald, Country Churchyards In Wales, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Capel Garmon, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1991.

H.M.S.O./DoE, St Dogmael’s Abbey, C. A. Ralegh Radford, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1975.

Spencer, Ray, A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.

https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/sagranus-commemorated-at-st-dogmaels/

http://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/401267/details/sagranus-stone-st-thomas-the-apostle-church-st-dogmaels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Dogmaels

http://grandterrier.net/wiki/index.php?title=Sant_Dogvael

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=2919

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


Donaghmore High Cross, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

The Donagh-more High Cross.

Irish Grid Reference: J 10443 34964. In an isolated and lonely spot beside Donaghmore Road, just east of the A1 (Dublin to Belfast Road), is the Early Christian Ecclesiastical site of Donaghmore (Domnach Mor) Moy Cova, and a churchyard beside the 19th century St Patrick’s Church, which belongs to the Church of Ireland. But here also stands the highly sculptured 10th century Donaghmore High Cross with its distinctive ringed cross-head. The place-name Donaghmore means ‘The Great Church’. Here in the 5th century AD St Patrick is thought to have established a church. This quite isolated little churchyard is located some 5 miles north of Newry and 6 miles south of Banbridge in Co. Down, Northern Ireland. To reach the site head north out of Newry for 5 miles on several country roads: Downshire, Belfast, Corcreechy and Aughnacavan, but keeping to the east of the A1 (Belfast road). On reaching a junction of four roads go right onto Donaghmore Road – where on your right you will soon see St Patrick’s Church and the Donaghmore Cross.

The Donaghmore High Cross or St Mac Erc’s Cross is a highly sculptured granite ring-head cross which is 10 feet high and is thought to date from the 9th or 10th century AD. It has a thick sturdy shaft and stands on a base of two steps. The ring-head probably came from another similar cross. It was re-erected at the S. side of St Patrick’s Church in 1891, but probably not in its original position. Depicted on the cross are several Biblical characters and scenes, and also panels with figures and decorative interlacing. Biblical characters and scenes on (W. Face) are: Noah’s Ark, Adam & Eve and Moses & David. The cross-head (W. Face) shows Christ’s crucifixion. He has long outstretched arms. At each side of Christ there are figures maybe of Stephaton and Longinus, two thieves and soldiers. An angel around Christ’s head. The (N. Face) depicts David & Goliath and interlacing. An angel on the cross-head. The (E. Face) has David or The Judgment of Solomon (David plays his lyre for Saul). Also figures, Moses smites water from the rock, David with the head of Goliath, David slaying the lion, The Last Judgment and St Paul with a bird or beast. S. Face has David and Solomon holding a child or other up-side down and St Paul or maybe St Anthony in the Desert.

St Patrick’s (Church of Ireland) church at Donaghmore is a 19th century building that replaced earlier Medieval churches and, before those, a church that was founded by St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, in the 5th century. St Mac Erc, who was the brother of St Mochaoi (Mochua) and a disciple of St Patrick, probably became the first bishop of Donaghmore. His feast day is celebrated on 6th July. St Mochaoi founded the monastery of Nendrum on Mahee Island, Co. Down. He died in c497. Legend says that St Patrick converted the local chieftain to Christianity here at Donaghmore, and in thanks ‘he’ built his church beside the fort (rath) from where the chieftain ruled his people. There is a blocked-up souterrain (underground passage) in the churchyard; this may have originally been connected to the fort. The church itself stands on the mound which was part of the fort. There are also some faint earthworks in a field on the opposite side of the road over to the west of the churchyard at (J 1012 3496).

Sources and related websites:

Connolly, Greenwood, Hawkins & Wallis, Ireland – The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., London, 1999.

Fisher, Graham & Pennington, John, Historic Britain, Odhams Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1953.

http://irishhighcrosses.com/down-crosses.html

http://irishantiquities.bravehost.com/down/donaghmoreHC/donaghmoreHC.html

http://lisburn.com/books/dromore-diocese/parish-donaghmore.html

http://archive.org/stream/ancientirishpari00cowarich/ancientirishpari00cowarich_djvu.txt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donaghmore,_County_Down

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


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Moone High Cross, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland

Moone High Cross (East Face)

Irish Grid Reference: S 78911 92693. About ½ a mile northwest of Moone village, on Belan Avenue, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland, is a 5th century monastic site with the lavishly sculptured ‘Moone High Cross’, a 9th century richly carved granite monument with numerous scenes depicted from the Bible. It is said to be the second tallest high cross in Ireland. There is a second cross but this only survives in parts. Also here are the ruins of a 13th century abbey church (which now houses the cross). A monastery or abbey was probably founded here after 431 by St Palladius (d c460), and in the 6th century this was named after St Columba. The ruined church stands over the foundations of ‘this’ early Celtic monastery. The little village of Moon, in the Valley of the river Barrow, is 3 miles south of Ballitore and ½ a mile south of Timolin, close to the R558 road. At the post office in Moone take the road opposite going northwest crossing over the R448, then shortly after go onto Belan Avenue, crossing over the river Greese, and then follow the lane until you reach the farm and old mill: the high cross is on the opposite side of these buildings at the west side.

The high cross, also called St Columba’s Cross, stands inside the ruined 13th century abbey church which now has a glass roof over it. It is a 5.3 metre (over 17 foot) high granite cross of three sections with a long slender shaft that tapers away. The wheel-head, which might be of a later date, shows Christ crucified but this has suffered some damage. There are 51 sculptured panels on all four sides, each having richly carved decoration depicting numerous scenes and characters from the Bible, and also Celtic symbolism including animals, mythical and magical creatures and other figures, but also other decorative work. The cross is thought to date from the 8th or 9th century AD. In 1835 and 1893 sections of the cross were excavated from the church-yard and then re-erected, and more recently placed for protection against the elements in the ruined medieval church.

West Face

The S. face shows The Temptation of St Anthony while below that four mythical serpents (snakes) are fighting with two open-mouthed lions or horses. Above those: SS Anthony and Peter and a raven bringing food. The N. face shows: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, The Flight into Egypt, SS Paul & Anthony in the Desert and The Three Children in the Fiery Furnace. The E. face has a large panel at its base showing the twelve Apostles, each having a square-shaped body, stubby legs and feet and pear-shaped heads; they all appear to have a slightly different facial expression! Above that: Christ being crucified (he has long outstretched arms), angels, a lozenge shape (diamond) and a whirligig (an object seen to be whirling or spinning around). The W. face shows: Daniel in the Lions’ Den (he is surrounded by seven hungry, open-mouthed lions), The Sacrifice of Isaac, Adam and Eve (with apple trees); also monsters interlinked with heads, and Christ and a Dolphin (above). 

There is also part of a holed cross in the church. This only has a short section of its shaft left and three sections of its wheel-head remaining; but the carvings on this cross are very similar and equally as good as those on the high cross. The carvings on this cross are: mythical and magical creatures, spirals, swirls, intertwining foliage, knotwork and interlacing. Although the 13th century church is ruined it still possesses ‘antae’ (projecting walls) at its gable ends, according to Nicholson’s Guide (1983).

Katharine Scherman (1981) says of the Moone High Cross that it is: “The most attractive of the Barrow crosses is the one at Moone, which, though the representations are no less naïve than those at Castledermot and other Barrow localities, has an entirely original and ingratiating charm. The cross is unusual in its shape, its tall slenderness accentuated by a long, tapered base. On the shaft are panels containing graceful, active and nearly recognizable quadrupeds. The Bible tales, scenes of spirited imagery, are on the four sides of the base. They include Adam and Eve—two small fat people framed by arches of apples; Daniel in the Lion’s Den—a figure in a square garment, like a paper doll, in a frame of seven openmouthed lions, four down one side from his ear to the hem of his dress, three down the other; the Twelve Apostles—twelve identical square men with pear-shaped heads and circle eyes, looking like three rows of cookies; the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes—five loaves, two fishes and two eels all by themselves in a pure and simple design.

“Homage is paid to those early anchorites St. Anthony and St. Paul, patrons of the monastic life. One panel shows their meeting in the desert: seated facing each other on straight-backed chairs, they break bread together. Another depicts St. Anthony—the rectangular saint beset by two rectangular visions , one with the head of an animal, the other of a bird. The panel below these two religious ones has an unscriptural scene of animals with the heads of horses and the bodies of serpents locked in an inextricable coil of combat; unlike the squared representations of humans, the artist carved his animals in sinuous curves. All the scenes are executed with a kind of childlike artfulness so that they fit exactly into their frames: the animals arch into the corners; the humans have round heads (the males’ are elongated by their short oval beards into teardrop shapes) and rectilinear torsos to fill the squares, and all their feet are turned side-ways, like those on Egyptian friezes. 

Scherman adds that: “In fact the art is clearly reminiscent of that of ancient Egypt: the artist was concerned with depicting what he saw intellectually with his mind’s eye rather than in reproducing in a naturalistic stylethe shapes seen by the visual eye alone. The stonework lacks the formalized skill of the Egyptians’ art, but it has an individualistic freshness deriving from the sculptor’s unregimented imagination, a luxury never permitted to the intensively trained Pharaonic artists.”

Sources and related websites:-

Nicholson’s Guides, Guide To Ireland, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London, 1983.

Reader’s Digest, Illustrated Guide To Ireland, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1992. 

Scherman, Katharine, The Flowering of Ireland, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1981.

http://highcrosses.org/moone/

http://www.thejournal.ie/heritage-ireland-coppingers-court-cork-moone-high-cross-kildare-2183701-Jun2015/

http://www.kildare.ie/Heritage/History/religious/crosses/moone-high-cross.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moone

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


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St Robert’s Cave-Chapel And Holy Well, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

St Robert’s Cave by Storye book (Wikimedia Commons).

OS Grid Reference: SE 36083 56059. In a secluded wooded area near Grimbald Bridge between Abbey Road and the River Nidd at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, is St Robert’s Cave & Holy Cross Chapel. Nearby, another chapel, but a 15th century wayside chapel and shrine, hewn out of the rock, which is today dedicated to Our Lady of The Crag. This particular chapel is not how-ever associated with St Robert. About 470m to the north is St Robert’s holy well, a healing spring resorted to by the faithful in times past. Robert Flower (1160-1218) was a hermit who spent many years here – more especially his latter years – but also at a number of other monastic sites across Yorkshire. He was said to have performed some miracles and devoted much of his time to the poor, though he was never canonised by the Church.  You can reach St Robert’s Cave from the newer bridge on Wetherby Road (B 6164). Go down the steps onto Abbey Road and a bit further south beside the river is the cave. The medieval Chapel of ‘Our Lady of the Crag’ is ½ a mile to the west at the other end of Abbey Road. St Robert’s Well was located on Monkswell Park Road about a ¼ of a mile north of town.

David Hugh Farmer (1982) says that St Robert was: “The son of an important townsman of York and became a cleric early in life. As a subdeacon he was a novice at the Cistercian abbey of Newminster, but stayed only a few months. He then chose to live as a herm at Knaresborough in a cave where another hermit, also in residence, was a knight in hiding from Richard I, on whose death (1199) he returned to his wife. Robert continued there for some years, until a wealthy widow offered him a cell and chapel at Rudfarlington, near by. A year later this hermitage was destroyed by bandits, so Robert lived at Spofforth under the church wall for a few months, then at Hedley near Tadcaster, where he found the monks to easy-going, before returning to Rudfarlington. Here he had four servants and kept livestock, but was soon in trouble with William de Stuteville, constable of Knaresborough Castle, for harbouring thieves and outlaws. The charge may have been true, for Robert was well known for charity to the destitute. The hermitage was destroyed by William; Robert returned to his cave at Knaresborough, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Farmer goes on to say of St Robert: “His benefactors included King John who gave him forty acres of land in 1216, which he eventually accepted for the poor  and so refused to pay tithes on it. William de Stuteville also gave him land and cows. Robert had a companion called Yves, who  remained with him for the rest of his life.

Farmer also adds that: “Robert’s death, like much of his life, was controversial. Cistercian monks from Fountains tried unsuccessfully to aggregate him to their Order on his death-bed and, after his death on 24th September, to bury his body in their church. But he refused the first and foiled the second by arranging for his burial at the chapel beside his cave. Later the Trinitarian house at Knaresborough acquired the hermitage: papal records for 1252 offered  an indulgence for ‘Building the monastery of St. Robert at Gnaresbur, where the saint’s body is buried’. This document followed his translation, but preceded any official process of canonization, for which a book of Lives and prayers was prepared. Official canonization never took place, but implicit approval was given to the cult. The chapel became a place of pilgri-mage, where oil flowed from the tomb. Matthew Paris regarded Edmund of Canterbury, Elizabeth of Hungary and Robert of Knaresborough as outstanding saints of the early 13th century.”

Sign at St Robert’s  Cave by Caruso 308 (Wikipedia)

St Robert’s Cave on Abbey Road, with its connecting chambers and the grotto-like inner chapel, were carved out of the solid Limestone cliff beside the river Nidd. It’s thought the saint himself enlarged the chapel and hermitage which has a stone altar, stone seat, two alcoves, medieval carved cross and more recent graffiti; building this structure must have taken a considerable amount of both energy and time. The chapel was dedicated in honour of the Holy Cross and maybe also St Giles? Pilgrims visited the hermit-saint knowing him to be a miracle worker, and even some eminent local people were known to seek his good council. However, the cave and chapel were frequently flooded by the river Nidd and for long periods remained uninhabited and cut off – this more so in recent times. After the death of St Robert in 1218 his body lay in a tomb that was located in the cave-chapel. There is a church dedicated to him at Knaresborough and another at Pannall, north Yorkshire. Morley church, Derby-shire, has some very nice stained-glass windows depicting the Life of St Robert of Knaresborough. His feast-day is 24th September.

There used to be a holy well named for St Robert 470m to the north of the saint’s cave (at SE 3629 5650), but today that holy spot is the Monkswell Business Park, Manse Lane. However, the last vestiges of the said well/spring can still be seen although today it is a ‘wishing well’ into which locals throw coins! Robert Charles Hope (1893) said of this well that: “A short distance above Grimbald’s Bridge, in a field called Halykeld Sykes, on the north side of the river Nidd, is “”St Robert’s Well.”” There is also a chapel of St. Robert of Knaresborough, which was confirmed by charter to the Brethren of the Order of the Holy Trinity at Knaresborough by Richard, Earl of Cornwall.” Another holy well, said to be named after St Robert, can still be seen just to the southeast of Levisham, north Yorkshire.

Our Lady of The Crag, Knaresborough. (Drawing)

About ½ a mile to the west, at the other end of Abbey Road, is the medieval chapel of  ‘Our-Lady-of-the Crag’, which has sometimes mistakenly been called St Robert’s Chapel, but this folly-like structure was built 200 years after the saint. The chapel, with its tiny inner shrine, was carved out of the sandstone rock-face in c1408 by a local mason by the name of John, whose son was almost killed in a rock fall. John prayed to Our Lady for a miracle. His son survived, and to thank Our Lady for the miracle he built the Chapel in thanks. The inside of the chapel is very tiny but there is an altar and a lovely modern statue of Mary. It has a carved vaulted ceiling with bosses and gargoyles. Church services do still occasionally take place at the chapel and groups of pilgrims come on visits (see the St Mary of Knaresborough website, below, for more informa-tion). By the chapel’s entrance and ‘standing guard’ is an 18th century carved statue of a very life-like knight in armour holding his sword. The chapel is Grade I Listed.

Our Lady Of The Crag Chapel.

Headley & Meulenkamp (1999) add with regard to this chapel and saying that: “………it is a wayside shrine with beautiful Gothic decoration, immediately above it is Fort Montague, an 18th century folly.” They say of Knaresborough that: “it resembles parts of Derbyshire, not least because of the large number of hermits caves.” Fisher & Pennington (1953) say that: “It was originally a wayside chapel, founded at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It won its unenviable place in the annals of notoriety when Eugene Aram hid in it the body of his victim. Aram was convicted of murder and executed in 1759 many years after his crime, which was given a romantic interest quite undeser-ved by a novel of Bulwer Lytton. The figure is of a knight drawing his sword.”  

Sources and related websites:-

Farmer, David Hugh, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 1982.

Fisher, Graham & Pennington, John, Historic Britain, Odhams Books, Feltham, Middlesex, 1953.

Headley, Gwyn & Meulenkamp, Wim, Follies Grottoes And Garden Buildings, Aurum Press Ltd., London, 1999.

Hope, Robert Charles, The Legendary Lore Of The Holy Wells Of England, Forgotten Books, 2012 (originally published 1893)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Roberts_Cave_008

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_of_Knaresborough

http://www.stmarysknaresborough.org/shrine.html

https://www.visitharrogate.co.uk/things-to-do/st-roberts-cave-p1203201

http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/site/1970/

http://www.halikeld.f9.co.uk/holywells/north/robert1.htm

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=26391

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Saxon Cross in St Peter’s Minster Church, Leeds, West Yorkshire

The Anglo- Saxon Cross in St Peter’s.

OS Grid Reference: SE 30657 33295. In St Peter’s parish church on Kirkgate in Leeds, west Yorkshire, there is a very tall and slender 10th century Anglo-Saxon wheel-headed cross, which stands on the Altar Flat. This very large city centre church is nowadays called Leeds Minster or ‘The Minster and Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds’. The cross-shaft fragments were discovered in the late 1830s when the tower was being demolished, but much of the present cross is a Victorian reconstruction of the original one, or as near to that as possible. There are several carved (sculptured) panels on the tall cross-shaft whereas other sections have nothing at all; and though it looks to be somewhat “cobbled-together’, it is a fairly credible-looking piece of construction. The church “here” was first mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) which stated that Leeds had a church, a priest and a mill; at this time the ruling overlord of Leeds was Ilbert de Lacy and the underlord, Ralph Paganel (Paynel). There may have been an earlier religious building on this site as far back as the early 7th century AD.

Joseph Sprittles writing in the parish guide book says of the Anglian Cross in St Peter’s that it is: “composed of sculptured stones found in the tower fabric of the old church when it was taken down. These were claimed by the architect who on retiring to Rottingdean caused the stones to be erected in his garden. After the death of Chantrell in 1876 the Vicar of Leeds, Dr John Gott, on learning the house was to be sold sought the purchaser and made him an offer for the Cross and, after much bargaining bought the ancient stones for £25 and  had them conveyed to Leeds where, four years later the cross was re-erected on the Altar Flat. The date of the Cross is thought to be c.925 A.D.” 

The restored cross shows Anglian and Scandinavian workmanship. It seems to be a platform for the Norse Legend of Weland the Smith, who features extensively on the monument. Weland or Weyland is depicted in a panel at the bottom of the cross in his flying machine with his tools of the trade. There are 10 carved sandstone panels but also some empty ones. Also, there is the usual interlacing, scrolls and end-knots, and a number of human figures both male and female as well as birds of prey. We see a cloaked figure holding a sword, a figure with a halo, a female figure held aloft by another figure, a female figure holding a horn, two hands grabbing hair; also Weland abducting the daughter of King Nidlad and Weland with a bird of prey. The wheel-head is considered not to be as old as the rest of the shaft and apparently comes from a different cross altogether. More information on this cross can be found on the Howard Williams (Archeodeath) website (see the link below).

Saxon Cross.

Author Frank Bottomley (1993) says regarding St Peter’s that it is a: “Medieval parish church replaced in 1841 with a significant building marking Anglian revival. Preserves spectacular A/S cross, fourteenth-century effigy, two fifteenth-century brasses and a large number of later monuments. Fifteenth-century font with seventeenth-century cover. ‘Brought in’ medieval glass (east window) and much of nineteenth-century.” Jones & Tricker (1992) add that Leeds is a: “A vast and overpowering town, but a great oasis for churches. The parish church of St Peter is unique because of its cathedral-type musical tradition – and what a place it is, rebuilt in 1841 for its famous vicar , W.F. Hook, to the designs of R.D. Chantrell. The exterior is massive, with a stately (144 ft ) tower. The interior is mighty and dignified, built to accom-modate 2,000 and full of seating and comm0dious galleries, but with the clear early Tractarian feel that it is not just a preaching house.”

Sources and related websites:-

Bottomley, Frank, Yorkshire Churches, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1993.

Jones, Lawrence E. & Tricker, Roy, County Guide To English Churches, Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 1992.

Sprittles, Joseph, Leeds Parish Church – History and Guide, Tower Publications, St. Marks, Cheltenham, Glos.,

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/leeds-cross/

http://www.leodis.net/searchResults.aspx?LOCID=9999&DECADE=0&YEAR=&KEYWORDS=%20Saxon%20Cross&KEYWORDS2=&KEYWORDS3=&ANDOR2=&ANDOR3=&RECSPAGE=5&VIEW=1&CURRPAGE=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeds_Minster

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2015/08/12/weyland-the-smith-an-article-by-david-mcgrory/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.