Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1007169
Date first listed: 23-Mar-1970
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 35893 61616
Reasons for Designation
High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross. High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services, some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers. Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally important.
Rockcliffe Cross is well-preserved. The monument is upstanding in its original position and provides insight into the importance of religious life during the early medieval period. The monument stands within the churchyard of the Grade II* listed Church of St. Mary. Taken together the cross, church and the other monuments within the churchyard provide insight into changes in religious art and monumentality between the early medieval and the post-medieval period.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 23 March 2016.This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an early medieval cross, situated within a church yard on the south side of St Mary's Church on the edge of Rockcliffe close to the banks of the River Eden. The sandstone cross, which is understood to stand in its original position, stands on a rectangular stone base above which is a shaft topped by a complete wheel-headed cross decorated with interlace and knot patterns along with two bear-like beasts. The style of the cross indicates it to date to the 10th century. The monument is a Listed Building Grade I.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: CU 319
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape Monument No:- 10834
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing