Mawgan Cross early Christian memorial stone and wayside cross shaft


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 70716 24868

Reasons for Designation

Early Christian memorial stones are inscribed free-standing stones commemorating named individuals and dating to the early medieval period (c.AD 400-1100). The stones are erect, roughly dressed or undressed slabs, bearing incised inscriptions, usually set in one or more vertical lines down one face of the slab, although in four examples the text runs horizontally across the slab. All except two recorded texts are in Latin and, depending on their date, may be inscribed in a script of Romanised capitals or an insular form of lower case lettering called miniscules, or a mixture of the two. Six stones also have inscriptions in an Irish script called ogham. Most inscriptions are simple, bearing a personal name and often stating a family relationship, such as `filii' (son of), to another personal name. Fourteen stones contain elements of the simple inscriptions within a longer, complex inscriptive formula, often including the phrase `hic iacet' (here lies). Additional decoration is found on very few stones and usually comprises a cross within a circle. Early examples, prior to the eighth century AD, may bear an early Christian symbol called a Chi Rho monogram, compounding the first two Greek letters of the name `Christ'. Early Christian memorial stones are largely restricted to areas which retained Celtic traditions during the early medieval period, with at least 139 recorded from Wales. In England, they are almost entirely confined to the south-west peninsula; of the 56 recorded examples, 37 occur in Cornwall, 11 in Devon, a group of 5 in Dorset, and single examples in Somerset, Hampshire and Shropshire. As a very rare and diverse class of monument important for our understanding of the social organisation and the development of literacy and Christianity during the early medieval period, all surviving groundfast examples of early Christian memorial stones are considered worthy of protection.

The early Christian memorial stone at Mawgan Cross has survived well, with its inscription complete and legible, and in rare association with a broadly contemporary boundary. It is one of only two such stones in south west Britain that bear the `alpha' and `omega' symbols, and it is one of only three memorial stones nationally that were re-fashioned to form a cross. The unusual features and good survival of this stone are reflected in its frequent reference by early antiquaries and in its mention in national studies of this monument class. As a wayside cross, it remains as a marker on its original route and junction, despite the absence of the head, demonstrating well the roles of wayside crosses and showing clearly the longevity of many routes still in use. The origin of some such early routes around contemporary and now redundant boundaries is well-illustrated at Mawgan and paralleled by the transition from the memorial stone to the wayside cross embodied in this monument.


The monument includes an early Christian memorial stone and wayside cross shaft, known as the Mawgan Cross, and a protective margin around it, situated at a road junction at Mawgan, near Helston at the northern end of the Lizard peninsula in south west Cornwall. The Mawgan Cross survives as an upright granite shaft rising 1.84m high. The rectangular-section shaft tapers from 0.48m wide by 0.44m thick at the base to 0.31m wide and 0.2m thick at the top, the broader faces orientated to the north west and south east. The north west face bears a deeply incised inscription which characterises the origin of the Mawgan Cross as an early Christian memorial stone. The inscription is in two parallel lines running down the lower 1.28m of the shaft. The inscription is in Latin, incised in an early medieval insular form of script derived from Roman style capitals, and reads `CNEGUMI FILI GENAIUS' which translates as `(the stone) of Cnegumus, son of Genaius'. The style of the lettering and the phrasing of the inscription have been considered to indicate a seventh-tenth century date. Above the inscription is a row of three incised stylised letters, written across the face and arranged one above the other. The upper and lower letters are versions of the religiously symbolic Greek letters `alpha' and `omega' respectively. The central letter is the letter `M', which has been considered to represent `Maria'. The upper end-face of the memorial stone bears a square-section mortice to receive a missing cross head. Early Christian memorial stones were free-standing slabs lacking a distinct or separate carved head. The insertion of the mortice for the head on this slab reflects a later adaptation of the stone for a wayside cross. On the south east principal face a modern Ordnance Survey bench mark has been incised 0.33m above the base of the shaft. The Mawgan Cross is situated on a kerbed grass verge in Mawgan village at the intersection of three roads and 320m south west of Mawgan church. While the route-junction is of relevance to the stone's function as a wayside cross, a study of the boundaries in this parish have shown that the cross also stands on the line of a dominant curving boundary, now preserved in field boundaries and the courses of roads, which encircles the church and its immediately associated settlement at Mawgan. Such a boundary has been proposed as a rare Cornish example of an early medieval outer ecclesiastical boundary, better known from Welsh and Irish sources, and which would be broadly contemporary with the memorial stone function of the monument. As a wayside cross, the monument stands on the junction of the routes to the church and settlement of Mawgan from the north and west, the main links of the settlement with the rest of Cornwall around the headwaters of the Helford estuary. The inscription on this cross has attracted frequent reference by most of the antiquaries describing monuments in Cornwall from the mid-18th century onwards and due to its unusual combination of features, it receives mention in most national studies of early Christian memorial stones. The surface of the modern metalled road passing north west of the Mawgan Cross but within the area of the protective margin is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Olson, L, Early Monasteries in Cornwall, (1989)
Preston-Jones, A, Rose, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Medieval Cornwall, (1986), 135-185
Preston-Jones, A, Rose, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Medieval Cornwall, (1986), 135-185
consulted 1994, CCRA Register entry for SW 72 SW/3,
consulted 1994, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 24667,
Okasha, E, Monument Class Description for 'Early Christian Memorial Stones', (1990)
Okasha, E, Monument Class Description for 'Early Christian Memorial Stones', (1990)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 52/62 & part SW 72 Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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.

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