Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in Lanivet churchyard, 30m north of the church

A Scheduled Monument in Lanivet, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.4452 / 50°26'42"N

Longitude: -4.7626 / 4°45'45"W

OS Eastings: 203954.059786

OS Northings: 64241.494169

OS Grid: SX039642

Mapcode National: GBR N1.P6GZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 07XW.8DB

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in Lanivet churchyard, 30m north of the church

Scheduled Date: 11 November 1954

Last Amended: 18 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014230

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28445

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Lanivet

Built-Up Area: Lanivet

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Lanivet

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the north of
Lanivet church in southern central Cornwall.
The churchyard cross is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or
`wheel' head, measuring 2.93m in overall height. The head measures 0.61m high
by 0.56m wide, the principal faces orientated east-west. Both principal faces
display an equal limbed cross with slightly splayed ends to the limbs and a
circular boss with a bead around its base at the intersection of the limbs.
There is a narrow bead around the outer edge of both faces. The upper part of
the south side of the head has been fractured; part of the upper limb and most
of the side limb are missing. The shaft measures 2.32m high by 0.47m wide at
the base tapering to 0.35m at the neck, and is 0.3m thick at the base. There
is a bead on all four corners of the shaft. Each face of the shaft is
decorated with incised patterns, motifs and rows of little holes or dots. The
east face is divided into five panels: the top panel depicts two oval rings
crossing each other to form a diagonal cross. The next panel is the largest
panel on the cross and displays the incised figure of a man 0.87m tall, with
both feet turned to the left. On the lower right side of the figure is a
`tail' with a heart-shaped motif half way down its length, and two short lines
across the end of the `tail'. The corresponding area on the left side of the
figure is filled with dots. It has been suggested that this `tail' motif is
either a tail or a key on a string. There is an unknown saint who is often
portrayed with a key, and it is probable that this figure is another
representation of this saint. It has also been suggested that this figure may
show pagan influence. Below this figure is a panel of relief interlace
pattern. The next panel consists of three rows of dots, and the bottom panel
is divided into two by a vertical incised line, one side filled with dots, the
other side sub-divided in two, one half filled with dots, the other half
containing a Latin cross. The west face is divided into six panels, the top
panel consists of two rows of dots, divided from the next panel by two incised
lines. This panel is similar to the top panel on the east face, two oval rings
crossing to form a diagonal cross. The next panel down is an incised diagonal
cross, and below that a panel of relief interlace design. Next is a panel of
three rows of dots, and the bottom panel contains an incised Latin cross with
possibly a crosier incised on the left of the cross, the hook curling round
the head of the cross. The south side of the shaft is decorated with six
panels. The top one is a long panel of rows of dots. The next panel is an
incised diagonal cross, followed by a plain, narrow panel. The next panel
contains an incised Latin cross, followed by a plain panel, and the bottom
panel is a long one of rows of dots. The north side of the shaft is also
divided into six panels, the long top panel containing an equal limbed cross
surrounded by rows of dots. The next panel has a diagonal cross, followed by a
panel of dots. The next panel contains two concentric circles; the decoration
on the two lower panels has worn away. There is a 0.12m diameter hole, 0.08m
deep in the bottom panel, 0.51m above ground level. The shaft is set into a
base which is buried over 30cm below the present ground level.
This churchyard cross is believed to be in its original location. There is a
tradition that it is positioned at the centre of Cornwall, `in the middle of
the county, north, south, east and west'. This is one of two churchyard
crosses in Lanivet churchyard, the only other churchyard with two such
elaborate crosses is at Sancreed in west Cornwall. This cross is of tenth
century date.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone,
mostly erected during the medieval period (mid 10th to mid 16th centuries AD).
Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as
stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm
Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for
preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of
sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between
parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate
battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and
protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market
places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some
crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for
example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the
scenes of games or recreational activity.
Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have
numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation
has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and
religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by
iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval
standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The
oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft
often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the
stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a
flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th
centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may
take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more
elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped
crosses are spire-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding
stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the
most famous of these include the Eleanor crosses, erected by Edward I at the
stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also
uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the
13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and
cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base,
buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and
head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our
understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our
knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which
survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their
original location, are considered worthy of protection.

This churchyard cross at Lanivet has survived well. It forms a good and
complete example of a wheel-headed cross. This cross is the most elaborately
decorated wheel headed cross in Cornwall. Its incised and dotted decoration is
uncommon, and the figure of a man with a `tail' is most unusual. The cross
dates to the tenth century, and maintains its original function as a
churchyard cross in its original location.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 21205.03,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 06/16; Pathfinder Series 1347
Source Date: 1989

Source: Historic England

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