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Churchyard cross-head in wall of Paul churchyard

A Scheduled Monument in Penzance, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.0895 / 50°5'22"N

Longitude: -5.5464 / 5°32'47"W

OS Eastings: 146428.406

OS Northings: 27071.677

OS Grid: SW464270

Mapcode National: GBR DXPF.VLX

Mapcode Global: VH05P.T06P

Entry Name: Churchyard cross-head in wall of Paul churchyard

Scheduled Date: 12 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015067

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28467

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Penzance

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Paul

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross-head set on a large granite
boulder in the south western boundary wall of Paul churchyard, on the southern
coast of Penwith in west Cornwall.
The granite churchyard cross-head survives as a round or `wheel' head,
measuring 0.6m high by 0.6m wide and is 0.2m thick. The principal faces are
orientated north east-south west. The head is pierced by four holes creating
an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by an outer ring. Three
of the holes fully pierce the head, only the lower hole on the north west side
does not, forming a hole 0.12m deep on its north east face. The limbs are
unusually widely splayed, leaving little room for the short outer ring. Both
principal faces are decorated. The south west face bears a figure of Christ
0.55m high, with outstretched arms, a long body, and short legs which extend
slightly beyond the edge of the lower limb of the cross-head. There is a 0.04m
wide bead or halo around the head, and the outstretched arms extend to the
edge of the side limbs. There are the remains of a single outer bead on the
upper limbs of the cross-head, and a double bead on the lower limbs starting
immediately below the Christ figure's outstretched arms. The north east face
of the cross-head is decorated with five large round raised bosses, 0.1m in
diameter, one on each of the limbs and one at the centre of the head. The boss
on the north west side limb has been removed at sometime in the past leaving a
dent 0.16m long by 0.08m wide and 0.04m deep. The edges of the limbs are
outlined with the remains of a double bead, visible on the lower and side
arms. There is a 0.02m diameter lump of iron embedded in the cross head
immediately below the lower limb on the south west face. The head is cemented
to the top of a large, granite boulder which measures 1.19m high by 1.06m wide
at the base tapering to 0.4m wide at the top, and is 0.48m thick.
This churchyard cross-head was cemented onto the boulder at some time in the
past, and at a later date the churchyard wall was built up to the boulder.
These events took place before 1896 when the historian Langdon recorded the
cross in its present position. There is a local tradition that this boulder
is the original shaft of the cross-head. This is unlikely as most four holed
crosses have ornately decorated shafts.
The figure of Christ motif is more widely found on crosses in west Cornwall,
notably around St Buryan, the site of a major Celtic monastery traditionally
founded by Althelstan in the early tenth century AD. A recent study of these
crosses, in which this cross is specifically mentioned, has considered that
they date to the late ninth or early tenth century and provided a major design
inspiration for the mid tenth century development of a more highly elaborate
series of west Cornish crosses.
The gravel surface of the footpath passing immediately to the north east of
the cross is excluded from the scheduling where it falls within the cross's
protective margin, but the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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 in the wall of Paul churchyard has survived reasonably
well, the head mounted on a boulder, later incorporated into the churchyard
wall. It is a good example of a four holed wheel headed cross-head, with
unusually widely splayed limbs and short outer ring. Its unusual and
distinctive design makes this cross one of the earliest known churchyard
crosses and provides important information on the production and stylistic
development of pre Norman crosses, reflected in its specific mention in a
recent study of this subject.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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