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Ruthwell Cross, cross

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale South, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0004 / 55°0'1"N

Longitude: -3.4076 / 3°24'27"W

OS Eastings: 310059

OS Northings: 568220

OS Grid: NY100682

Mapcode National: GBR 4BNM.29

Mapcode Global: WH6Y4.MKKZ

Entry Name: Ruthwell Cross, cross

Scheduled Date: 31 December 1921

Last Amended: 29 May 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90256

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross (free-standing)

Location: Ruthwell

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale South

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the Anglian high cross with runic inscriptions displayed within Ruthwell Parish Church, together with a loose fragment of the cross-head and a fragment of another cross. The Ruthwell Cross was first scheduled in 1921, but is being re-scheduled now because no adequate documentation can be traced from the time of the original scheduling.

The Ruthwell Cross was created in the early 8th century, during a period when the kings of Northumbria extended their rule west into the lands on either side of the Solway Firth, enlarging their original territory which stretched from the Forth to the Humber. The cross functioned as a preaching cross, which once stood near to Ruthwell on the Solway shore. The cross survives today as one of the most beautiful and sophisticated monuments of early medieval Christianity.

Traditionally, the original site of the cross is said to have been at Priestside (NY 102 662), on the Solway shore. It was standing in the church or churchyard when it was thrown down and broken in about 1642. The broken fragments remained in the church until some time after 1772 when they were again removed to the churchyard. In 1802 the cross was erected in the manse garden. In 1823 the cross was reconstructed in its present form: the cross-head we see today is largely the work of this restoration. The cross was moved to its current location in 1887 when the apse in which it stands was specially built: it was accepted into guardianship at this time.

The carving is of extremely high quality and, although influenced by designs from further afield, it is most likely to have been the work of local sculptors. It probably stood in the open air, outside a church that probably formed part of a small monastery. Its coherent scheme of Christian images and Latin texts shows how the cross would have served as a theological reference work and as an aid to contemplation for those educated in the liturgy. Recent scholarship has focused on the fascinating question as to why this sophisticated monument was sited in a distant borderland, rather than at a great centre of Northumbrian monastic culture.

The two broader faces have scenes illustrating the divinity and power of Christ, along with representations of the Holy Trinity, and the symbols of the four Evangelists, all within a ladder-like frame. The two narrow side faces are carves with panels of vine-scroll ornament, inhabited with birds and beasts, representing the theme of Creation. These panels are surrounded by runic text of an Old English poem, ?The Dream of the Rood?, in which the cross itself describes the events of the Crucifixion.

The subject of the scheduling is the Ruthwell Cross and the footings holding it in position, situated within the purpose-built apse, of Ruthwell Church (the apse and church are not included in the scheduling).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as the finest example in Scotland of the Anglo-Saxon Jarrow-Monkwearmouth school of sculpture. The cross is considered to be one of the outstanding monuments of the early church in western Europe, and as such has the potential to inform an understanding of social and religious structures, and of contemporary artistic expression.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NY16NW4.


Cassidy B ed. 1992, THE RUTHWELL CROSS, Princeton University.

Hawkes J and Mills S eds. 1999, NORTHUMBRIA'S GOLDEN AGE, Stroud.


Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Ruthwell Cross
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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