Height: 153.000 cm
Gift of Mrs J.W. Staniforth
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Stone cross shaft
Anglo-Saxon, early 9th century AD
From Sheffield, Yorkshire, England
This carved stone is the lower part of the shaft of a free-standing cross. Free-standing crosses were both a common and important form of Anglo-Saxon Christian monument. Some were probably used as preaching crosses, imposing reminders of the Christian message, many as signposts marking places of worship and the wealth of the church community. This one probably originally stood in a churchyard. The back has been hollowed out as a trough. It may have been part of a cross that was demolished in 1570 when Christian images were overthrown in the Reformation, a Europe-wide revolt against aspects of the authority, wealth and practices of the established church.
The stone is decorated with a design typical of many Anglo-Saxon sculptural crosses. The main face of the cross is carved in relief with a stylized vine, its branches drooping with heavy bunches of grapes. In the middle of the vine is a figure wearing a tunic and holding a bow and arrow. He may be a visual reference to one of the Old Testament Psalms, as a personification of the ‘Divine Word’ seeking its target. The arrangement is also similar to the ‘inhabited vine’ motif on other objects of the period, such as carved ivories. Similar vine scroll patterns have also been carved on the two narrow sides of the shaft. In the Late Antique and early medieval Christian tradition this decoration symbolized Christ as the ‘True Vine’ (John 15:1-7) and wine was used to celebrate every Christian mass.
B. Raw, 'The Archer, the Eagle and the Lamb', Journal of the Warburg and Cou, 30 ()
S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)
T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)