Curriculum Kernewek

Cornwall Agreed Syllabus 2011

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+ Guide to Stone Crosses

Stone crosses are one of Cornwall's most numerous ancient monuments. There are over 400 complete stone crosses in the county and 200 fragments.

Cornish crosses vary greatly in their style and purpose and the earliest stone crosses are thought to date from the late 9th century, although stones inscribed with the Chi Rho monogram are considerably older, perhaps as early as the 5th century. The majority of stone crosses date from between the 10th and 13th century but there is evidence for wayside crosses being erected as late as the middle of the 15th century. Changes in style and decoration occurred slowly over centuries making the stones difficult to date. It is suspected that some crosses and inscribed stones may have originated as standing stones in the prehistoric period.

At the time of the Reformation some crosses may have been deliberately destroyed but it is thought that more damage to crosses was inflicted during the Civil War and Commonwealth period. Lantern crosses may have been targeted during these periods due to the carved imagery and consequent associations with Catholicism. Over the years many crosses have been moved to new locations or used for other purposes, for instance gateposts or building stone. So far experts have identified over 70 gateposts across Cornwall which were originally set up as crosses.

Styles of Cornish cross include:

+ Round or Wheel-Headed Crosses - the cross shaft is topped with a decorated circular head, carved with a cross symbol.

+ Holed Crosses - the cross shaft is topped with a circular head which has been drilled by four holes to create the shape of a cross.

+ Inscribed Crosses - there are approximately 60 inscribed stones in Cornwall but only 20 of these are crosses. These stones mainly carry inscriptions in Latin and Ogham and some display the Chi Rho monogram.

+ Cross Slabs or Pillars - as the name suggests these are simply shaped stones decorated with the symbol of the cross.

+ Latin Crosses - these are cross-shaped stones often used as a wayside or boundary cross.

+ Late Medieval Gothic Style Lantern Crosses - a lantern of granite or, for finer carving, greenstone, decorated with scenes of the crucifixion, Virgin and Child or other figures.