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Latitude: 51.0479 / 51°2'52"N
Longitude: -3.2571 / 3°15'25"W
OS Eastings: 311973.244001
OS Northings: 128373.138753
OS Grid: ST119283
Mapcode National: GBR LT.GBN5
Mapcode Global: FRA 462B.T27
Entry Name: Cross in St James' churchyard
Scheduled Date: 4 December 1957
Last Amended: 19 March 1999
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1017291
English Heritage Legacy ID: 32169
Civil Parish: Fitzhead
Traditional County: Somerset
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset
The monument includes a medieval cross located 20m south east of the west door
of St James' Church. The remains of the original cross structure include a
two-stepped octagonal base, surmounted by a socket stone into which is set a
shaft. The lower step of the base is approximately 2.3m in diameter. Each face
of the upper step is 0.6m long and 0.3m high and this supports a square socket
stone with broached top corners and an octagonal top. A square tapering shaft,
approximately 1.5m high is set into the socket stone and has a carved figure
of an ecclesiastic on its east face. Restoration of the cross in 1908 included
the addition of 0.3m of shaft and a decorated lantern head. The cross is
Listed Grade II*.
All gravestones which fall within the cross's 1m protective margin are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
Source: Historic England
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.
Despite some restoration work and the fitting of a new head in 1908 the
medieval cross in the churchyard of St James survives well in what is
considered to be its original position and it displays evidence of medieval
Source: Historic England
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