The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Stump Cross, Near Mereclough, Lancashire

Stump Cross as seen from the opposite side of the Long Causeway.

OS Grid Reference: SD 8780 3003. At the side of the Long Causeway, near Mereclough, Lanca-shire, is a standing stone that is locally called ‘Stump Cross’. It is a very weather-beaten stump of a stone which has the name STUMP CROSS carved onto it and also an incised cross. The thinking is that it was originally a Bronze-Age standing stone that had stood on the moors, or it had came from a nearby stone circle? In more recent times, however, it seems to have been chopped down to its current height for it to become a marker stone or guide post, and then brought in to use as a wayside cross; there are other crosses close to the Long Causeway, which is a medieval trackway linking the towns of Burnley, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. The stone is best reached from the A646 (Todmorden Road). Turn right up to Over Town and Mereclough; then turn right again at the pub and go up hill onto the Long Causeway. Stump Cross is about 1 mile along here at the left side of the road, just before Stone Jug Farm. There is a rough parking place at the opposite side of the road, but the road can be very busy – so please take great care if photographing the stone.

Stump Cross, near Mereclough, Lancashire.

Today ‘Stump Cross’ cuts a lonely figure standing bravely beside The Long Causeway, a wind-swept moorland route between Burnley, Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge, linking Lancashire with west Yorkshire. It is a very worn and weather-beaten stump of a stone but still of local historical interest as a guide post and wayside cross. The words ‘STUMP CROSS’ now quite difficult to make out at the bottom of the stone and the incised cross near the top even more difficult still. It has obviously suffered from being chopped off at the top but this has, in a way, made it into a more shapely little standing stone. And if it was originally a prehistoric standing stone did it come from the moors around here? Did it perhaps stand upon nearby Mosley Height and come from a Bronze Age stone circle there? Or did it come from somewhere else? The Long Causeway was a medieval trackway and, later a packhorse route, though it probably dates from further back into pre-history. There are, or were, several other wayside crosses along, or close to, the Causeway, three such being Robin Cross, Maiden Cross and Mount Cross. Other wayside crosses on or near the Long Causeway have now, sadly, been ‘Lost to Time’.

John Billingsley (2011) tells us that: “In the mediaeval period, the Long Causeway may have also been known, rather literally, as the High Street, and was known as a key conduit in local travel networks. It was then that it picked up its accoutrement of crosses along its length – from west to east, we know of the following named crosses on or near its route: Stump Cross, located on a rise where the road bends……..; Robin Cross (1968 6″, SD8809 2975) which gave its name to Robin Cross Hall and Farm; Maiden Cross, now no more than a scratched inscription on a wall-stone to one side of the wind-farm, 35-40 yards from the site of the original (1968 6″ SD8940 2878) which stood just off the road; Dukes Cross, at a point between Maiden Cross and Stiperden Cross (1968 6″ SD8973 2855), Stiperden Cross, at the junction of the old and new roads, where the new route swings round in a loop to keep to the contours and avoid the muddy direct route with its stream crossing (and Adam’s Well); and Mount Cross (also known as Idol Cross), some yards below the road on Cross Hill, opposite Mount Farm in Shore.”  

Billingsley (2011) refers in his notes to: “Newell, 1911, p174-182. Stump Cross is of course a description, not a name, and may refer to Robin Cross.”

Sources and related websites:-

Billingsley, John, Hood, Head and Hag, Northern Earth, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, 2011.

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=4155

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/05/08/mount-cross-cornholme-west-yorkshire/

Toggle down for Long Causeway:  http://www.calderdalecompanion.co.uk/l.html#l75

https://stevemoxon.co.uk/robin_hood_name_origin_myth_etymology/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria

Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria.

OS Grid Reference: NY 09156 00471. In Irton churchyard (south-side of St Paul’s Church) in Eskdale, Cumbria, stands the tall, slender Irton High Cross, a Viking monument thought to date from the mid 10th century AD, though a few scholars suggested that it is even earlier than that? The cross has some very intricate decoration – some of which looks to be more Celtic than Danish. Its runic inscription having all but faded away, but other than that it is a very fine ancient monument; the cross-head, in particular, being very pleasing to the eye. St Paul’s church itself dates from the Victorian period. To reach this site from Santon (Santon Bridge) follow the lane for a couple of miles south, then southwest towards Holmrook, but turning off to the right before reaching that village and, just after passing the entrance to Aikbank farm. Follow this track (north) to St Paul’s Church and the Irton Cross. The tiny village of Irton is roughly ½ a mile to the east of St Paul’s Church and 3 miles southeast of Gosforth.

Irton High Cross, Eskdale, Cumbria.

The Irton High Cross is a well-preserved, intact, cross standing at almost 10 foot high (3.4 metres) and is made of red sandstone. It is a slender cross that tapers away slightly towards the top where there is a very fine, carved cross-head with central raised bosses. The age of the cross is uncertain, but most scholars think it to be from 950 AD. However, a few scholars and historians have suggested that it looks to be of an earlier date maybe the 8th or 9th century? And some of the carved decoration on its four-sides looks to be similar to Celtic work, rather than Anglian/Danish; Cumbria obviously being close to the Celtic countries of Ireland and Scotland. There is also a Saxon influence. We can see some very intricate interlacing and circular designs with dots (pellets) in long panels on the shaft, and also on the cross-head; the central bosses also having this pellet-work. Two figures are apparently visible as are beasts. Other carvings include: key-patternwork, diamond shapes, scrollwork, spirals and roll-moulding. Originally there was a Runic inscription in the smaller panel but this has now worn away. The sandstone base is perhaps the same age as the cross or later?

Arthur Mee (1961) tells us that: “Not so old as some flints and spear-heads found here, the remarkable churchyard cross of Irton is old enough, for it was probably carved out of the red sandstone 1000 years ago; and for its beauty and preservation it ranks second only to the wonderful cross at Gosforth. Tapering gracefully to a fine head, it is ten feet high, and is richly ornamented. Beyond the fine timber lychgate it has a new companion on the little green, a graceful cross to the Irton men who died for peace.

“The stolid little church was refashioned last century and has a fine tower with an imposing turret above the battlements. Its eight bells must echo far and wide among these hills and vales. The tower archway is screened by attractive wrought iron gates, and the attractive chancel arch has black and marble shafts.”

Robert Harbison (1993) gives some rather comical information re: “Irton Cross, S of  the church, is a very ruddy orange on the E face, better preserved on W. Carpet patterns like those in manuscripts on E, knots on W, protrusive baubles in the centre of the lively misshapen head. A moving presence in this windswept place; there’s an Art Nouveau imitation lower down to SW, with a stone rail behind.”

Harbison goes on to say that “The church is unattractive outside but lovely within. Its scale is wonderful, like a model, and there are many entertaining fittings — a painted iron screen in tower arch, rustic wooden haunches in chancel roof, lots of Victorian banners on the walls and very amusing narrative windows. These include four good late panels by Burne-Jones, of which the oldest is the Tiburtine Sibyl in a lionskin by an altar.”

Maxwell Fraser (1939) says that: “In Irton churchyard is a cross 10 feet high and richly carved, which probably dates from the ninth century.”

The Historic England List Entry Number is: 1012642.

Sources and related websites:-

Fraser, Maxwell, Companion into Lakeland, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, 1939.

Harbison, Robert, The Shell Guide to English Parish Churches, André Deutsch Limited, London, 1993.

Mee, Arthur, The King’s England — Arthur Mee’s Lake Counties — Cumberland And Westmorland, Hodder And Stoughton Limited, London, 1961.

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

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1012642

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/AngloSaxonSites/

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

https://www.visitcumbria.com/crosses/

https://www.photonorth.uk/-/image-library/cumbria/history/anglo-saxon-and-viking-cumbria-photos?preview=795826c7

http://eskdale.info/irton.html

https://www.eskdale.info/history.html

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2019.


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Churchyard Cross, St Nicholas’ Church, Grosmont, Monmouthshire, Wales

St Nicholas’ church cross.

OS Grid Reference: SO 40475 24302. In St Nicholas’ churchyard (north-side near the door) at Grosmont in Monmouthshire, Wales, there was a medieval preaching cross which had crudely carved depictions of Christ crucified and Mary the Virgin with baby Jesus. It was locally called Jack o’ Kent’s Cross. There was, and still is, some uncertainty about the age of the cross, but the carved section atop the shaft was thought to date from between the 11th to 13th century, whereas the shaft and eight-sided base are more recent, maybe 14 or 15th century? Due to ‘the recent safety concerns’ the carved fragment of the cross-head has had to be placed in the church, leaving the shaft and base out in the churchyard. Apparently the shaft was originally much taller. There may have been an earlier cross-head on top of the cross shaft. The 13th century parish church of St Nicholas at Grosmont looks rather like a small cathedral with its tall 14th century octagonal spire, which is a landmark for many miles around. It is to be found at the southwest side of the village, be-side the B4347 road, a couple of miles south of Kentchurch and about 6 miles to the northeast of Llanfihangel Crucorney.

Carved cross head at St Nicholas’ church, Grosmont.

Today, however, the churchyard cross looks rather forlorn with its chopped down shaft, but it still stands here on its octagonal base – alas though without the carved cross-head. But ‘this’ carved section is safe and secure in the south transept of St Nicholas’ church after it was stolen some years back. We don’t know with any certainty the age of the carved cross-head or where it came from: the thinking being that it is was perhaps carved between the 11th and 13th centuries, whereas the shaft and base are from the 14th or 15th century? with some damage caused to the shaft in the 16th. Could the carved section have come from a castle, an abbey, or some other church; that we don’t know, or do we* The carved section, now in the church, shows Christ crucified on one side and Mary and baby Jesus on the other with what could be the outline of a bovine animal lower down; the carving of Mary and Jesus seems to be ‘a crude affair’ compared to that on the opposite face suggesting, perhaps, that it was carved at a different date? It was probably a preaching or wayside cross. Locally, it is sometimes called ‘Jack o’ Kent’s Cross – after the giant and magician who lived at Kentchurch Court. He was not, however, buried beneath the cross. In fact, Jack’s body was buried only just outside Grosmont church!

*Chris Barber (1992) alludes to the following bit of interesting information regarding a carved stone found at Llanfihangel Crucorney, 6 miles southwest of Grosmont. He tells that: “When the church was being rebuilt in 1834, with money raised by public subscription, an ancient stone was revealed. On one side is a representation of the Virgin Mary with baby in her arms and on the reverse side is Christ on the cross between two thieves.” 

Cross Ash School children (1985) tell us in their delightful booklet about the local giant, saying that: “Under the wall of the South Transept, according to legend, lies the body of the giant, Jack of Kent, buried half inside the church and half outside the church, where his tombstone can still be seen.” The school children also mention that: “the font probably dates back to 1150. It is one hundred years older than the church itself. This could mean that at one time there was another church on the site. There is a pattern of a rope on the font, which was common in 1150.”

Donald Gregory (1991) says of St Nicholas’ church that: “This non-Celtic dedication probably indicates that this was the first church to be built on that site. Certainly most of what is still visible in the church and churchyard dates from the same time as the stone castle. Gregory adds that: “Near the entrance gate in the northern consecrated part of the churchyard is an early medieval preaching cross, part of whose shaft remains, firmly secured and — unusually — into an octagonal base; it may be noted, though no known inference may be derived from the observation, that the stout tower of the church is likewise octagonal. The shaft was lopped in the sixteenth century, but curiously enough the carved capstone, which was later placed upon it, is definitely of medieval origin, although where it came from no-one knows.” 

Chris Barber (1984) tells us more about the church. He says: “Go into the church and you will immediately feel an atmosphere of antiquity, peace and mustiness. The floor of the now disused nave is well illustrated with engraved stones and there are many interesting tablets to read on the walls. In a corner of the nave can be seen a wooden chest known as the ‘”Grosmont Hutch”‘ and a half finished effigy of a knight, which is reputed to be that of Jack o’ Kent who once resided in this corner of Gwent. Numerous stories are told about his deeds and adventures. Some claimed that he was Owain Glyndwr in disguise.; others accused him of being a wizard in league with the devil. A legend tells that Jack made a pact with Satan that he should have his soul when he died, whether he was buried inside the church or outside. However, Jack cunningly fooled the devil by arranging for his burial to take place under the very walls of the church at Grosmont, so that he was neither inside nor outside. An old tombstone in the churchyard close to the east wall is said to cover his remains and it is claimed that he died at the age of 120 years. A proverb once used in this neighbourhood would describe someone “‘as clever as the devil or Jack of Kent”‘.

Sources and related websites:-

Barber, Chris, The Seven Hills Of Abergavenny, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1992.

Barber, Chris, Exploring Gwent — A Walker’s Guide To Gwent Land Of History And Legend, Regional Publications (Bristol) Limited, Clifton, Bristol, 1984.

Cross Ash School, Churches And Castles — Within the Grosmont Skenfrith and White Castle Trilateral, 1985.

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

The Church In Wales, Great Churches in the Diocese of Monmouth — a Visitors Guide (Transl. by Sian Edwards), June 2005.

St Nicholas Church

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_St_Nicholas,_Grosmont

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/221965/details/st-nicholas-church-grosmont

https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=571

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_o%27_Kent

https://www.spookyisles.com/2014/07/jack-okent-the-welsh-doctor-faustus/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


The Wolverhampton Cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

The Wolverhampton Cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

Information board near the cross, St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

OS Grid Reference: SO 91406 98769.  Near the south door of St Peter’s Parish Church, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, stands a 4m high blackened column which is called ‘The Wolverhampton Cross’, St Peter’s Garden Cross, or sometimes Saint Wulfruna’s Cross. This curious column may, in fact, have come from the Roman town of Wroxeter, but in the mid-9th century AD Saxon stone-masons added carvings to it and, from that time on, it became a preaching cross that ‘may’ have been associated with a Saxon monastery on the site, though there seems to be little evidence for that. A small, slender stone cross used to be affixed to the top of the column’s capital. The decorative Anglo-Saxon carvings on this cylindrical shaped monument are now very faint and indecipherable, but in certain light and shade they tend to be more visible. At the north-side of the church is a modern statue of Wulfruna, a 10th century Mercian saint. St Peter’s Collegiate Church stands between the Council Offices and Wolverhampton Gallery on Wulfruna Street and St Peter’s Walk, at the north-side of central Wolverhampton, opposite the University and Arena Theatre buildings.

The Wolverhampton Cross stands beside St Peter’s parish church.

The Wolverhampton Cross, Wroxeter Roman column, St Peter’s Garden Cross or, even Saint Wulfruna’s Cross, call it what you will, is a column/pillar made of sandstone that stands just over 4 metres (13½ feet) high on its large sturdy base of four rounded steps. It cylinder-shaped shaft gradually tapers away towards the top to be surmounted by a capital where originally a cross was built onto it – and what a spectacular monument it must have been. Thought to date from 850 AD although historians now tend to think that it was carved in the late 10th century at which time (994 AD) a monastery was founded here by St Wulfruna and the original church perhaps raised to ‘minster status’, although scholars think it unlikely that there ever was a Saxon monastery. The present church is 15th century. If the column did originally come from Roman Wroxeter (Viraconium), could it have been stolen by Saxon stone carvers? – so to speak, and then brought to Wolverhampton! There are carvings on the column, although faint, of foliage, acanthus leaves, scrolls, beasts, birds and other ornament, but you’ll need to look very closely and have the right light and shade.

Robert Harbison (1993) writes that: “Outside the S door is the mid 9c Wolverhampton cross. From afar it looks like a column suffering from comically exaggerated entasis. It is very black and hard to decipher, but at the right distance you see roundels separated by decorative bands, then a subliminal lattice and, depending from it, V-shaped feelers of decora-tion which trail off into the uncarved base. It is an inventive scheme without parallel elsewhere.”

Kendrick (1938) “considered the decoration to be unique; the only surviving example in England which demonstrated the southern continental Baroque style.. He also thought (1949) that it illustrated “a taste for a crowded display of finicky decoration”, which is also reflected in the later Stapleford Cross,” according to the Wikipedia website.

Robert Harbison (1993) tells of St Peter’s Church “St Peter’s chancel is long and prominent, made that way in the 1860s by Ewan Christian to balance the 16c tower. Old photos reveal that the E end is all Victorian. Here they were right, because the 17c chancel was undeniably mean. Inside, however, we deduce the addition was planned for external effect, because from within it feels much too long.

“The nave is an awesome space, towering up to the gloom of a good roof. In the N aisle interesting Whallish windows of local provenance. On the Perp stone pulpit there’s a wonderful lion guarding the stair.

“Behind one of the mellow screens in the S transept is a compelling monument to an admiral by Le Sueur, with a mannered lifesize portrait flanked by sprawling babies, a bronze trio of enigmatic force.” 

St Peter’s parish Church with modern statue of St Wulfruna.

As to St Wulfruna, mentioned earlier, not that much is known, though she seems to have been purely a local saint; and a noblewoman of the royal house of Mercia. She was the wife of Earl Athelme, mother of St Wulfric of Burton, and granddaughter of King Aethelred I. King Edgar was related to her. Legend tells that in 948 Wulfruna was kidnapped and imprisoned at Tam-worth by the Viking chieftain, Olaf, but she did manage to escape!  Some have suggested that she founded a convent at or near the present St Peter’s Church (at the place called Hēatūn, later known as Wolverhampton), but this might not be the case. It would seem she was granted some land at Pelsall (Peoleshale) in 985. St Wulfruna died and was buried at Tamworth in 996 or 1005. There is a holy well named after her in Goresbrook Road, Wolverhampton (see link below). A modern statue of Lady Wulfruna by Wheeler stands in the square at the north-side of St Peter’s church.

Sources & related websites:-

Harbison, Robert, The Shell Guide to English Parish Churches, André Deutsch Limited, London, 1993. 

Kendrick T. D., Anglo Saxon Art to AD 900, p 192-3, 1938.

Kendrick T. D., Late Saxon and Viking Art, p 71-2 (plate XLVI), 1949.

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

http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WOHER_MBL337/

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/08/07/wulfrunas-well-wolverhampton-west-midlands/

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

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/wulfruna/wulfruna01.htm

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1005886

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Penn/history/AngloSaxons.htm

© 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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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.