Ancient Monuments

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Churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard, immediately south of the church

A Scheduled Monument in Sancreed, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1081 / 50°6'28"N

Longitude: -5.6094 / 5°36'33"W

OS Eastings: 142024.1335

OS Northings: 29346.72

OS Grid: SW420293

Mapcode National: GBR DXJD.HD6

Mapcode Global: VH05G.QKD1

Entry Name: Churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard, immediately south of the church

Scheduled Date: 27 October 1967

Last Amended: 12 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015077

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29209

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Sancreed

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Sancreed

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the south of
Sancreed church on the Penwith peninsula in the far west of Cornwall. This is
one of five crosses now present in the churchyard.
The churchyard cross, which is Listed Grade II*, is visible as an upright
granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head, set on a modern granite base. The
overall height of the monument is 1.94m. The head measures 0.49m high by 0.52m
wide and is 0.16m thick. The principal faces are orientated north-south. Both
faces are decorated with an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked
by a recessed area between the limbs. The edges of the limbs are outlined with
a single bead. The south face bears a figure of Christ in relief, with
outstretched arms, and a bead or halo around its head. The figure wears a
tunic and has a band around the waist; the legs extend onto the top of the
shaft and have out-turned feet. The north face bears a central circular boss
with an interlaced knot on each limb; the knots are linked together around the
central boss. The shaft measures 1.39m high by 0.32m wide at the base tapering
slightly to 0.29m at the top and is 0.18m thick. There is a fracture across
the shaft 0.2m below the head, which has been repaired with cement. There is
probably a section of shaft missing here as the lower shaft is slightly wider
and thicker than the upper shaft. The shaft has a narrow bead on all four
corners and all four faces are decorated. The south principal face is divided
into three panels: the short upper panel has been defaced, the middle panel
bears interlaced knots, and the lower panel bears a short inscription in two
horizontal lines. This inscription is incised in an early medieval form of
script derived from Roman style capitals and reads `RUNHO'. This name is
considered to be the signature of the sculptor. There is another similar
cross, from the West Penwith area, now at Lanherne on the north coast of
Cornwall, which bears the name Runhol. This is believed to be an Anglo-Saxon
name, and it is thought that the sculptor came from the Bodmin/east Cornwall
area as the decoration on the back of this cross at Sancreed is very similar
to that on the churchyard cross at Cardinham, north of Bodmin. The north face
bears a single long panel with pairs of interlaced knots. The west side bears
a long panel of diagonal key pattern, and the east side is decorated with a
long panel containing a serpentine figure with its body and tail formed from
interlace work. The decoration on the shaft is not easily visible as it is
well worn and extensively covered in lichen.
The modern rectangular granite base measures 0.67m east-west by 0.4m north-
south and is 0.06m high above ground level. The shaft of this churchyard cross
was discovered by the vicar, Rev Basset Rogers, during restoration of the
church in 1881, built into the east wall of the church. The head had been
located on the western churchyard wall for many years. The vicar had the shaft
removed from the church wall, and had the head cemented to the shaft. The
cross was re-erected in the churchyard against the hedge by the entrance to
the vicarage. The historian Langdon visited the cross in 1894 and had the
cross taken down so that he could record the decoration on the face against
the hedge. He then persuaded the vicar to re-erect the cross on a modern base
in the churchyard in its present position, in June 1894. The inscription and
the interlace decoration combine to suggest that this cross dates to the tenth
The grave with its kerb surround and marble statue to the east of the cross,
the casket tombstone to the south, and the cement gutters at the base of the
church walls to the west and north of the cross, all fall within its
protective margin and are excluded from the scheduling, 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 Sancreed churchyard has survived reasonably well,
despite losing a small section of its shaft. It is a good example of a wheel
headed cross. 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. The inscription of the
name of its sculptor on the shaft is a rare feature.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Thomas, C, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?, (1994)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. No. 49, (1978), p.75-9
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 28712.3,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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