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Sandstone shaft from a cross

 

Height: 129.000 cm

Purchased with the aid of a contribution from the National Art Collections Fund

M&ME 1967,4-4,1

Great Court

    Sandstone shaft from a cross

    Anglo-Saxon, late 8th-early 9th century AD
    From Lowther, Cumbria, England

    A Christian message

    This elegant sandstone cross-shaft originally stood in the churchyard at Lowther alongside other crosses and hog-back grave covers. The purpose of these great Anglo-Saxon standing crosses has been much debated; some were clearly set up as memorials, others have been described as 'sermons in stone'.

    The cross (now lacking its cross-shaped head) recalls the central message of Christianity, by taking the form of the wooden cross on which Christ was crucified, and symbolizing His redemptive sacrifice for mankind. The Christian message is reinforced by the delicate plant scrolls with their fruiting bunches of grapes that decorate the four sides of the cross shaft. They symbolize Christ as the 'true vine' of St John's Gospel, on whom the faithful feed in the act of communion.

    The decoration shows the influence of Italian and Byzantine models, which were often adapted by Anglo-Saxon sculptors and manuscript painters at this period.

    D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)

    R.N. Bailey and R.J. Cramp, Corpus of Anglo-Saxon sculptur (Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1988)

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