Medieval churchyard cross in Callington churchyard


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Medieval churchyard cross in Callington churchyard
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Jul-2019 at 22:02:33.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 35868 69628

Reasons for Designation

A standing cross is a free standing upright structure, usually of stone, mostly erected during the medieval period (mid 10th to mid 16th centuries AD). Standing crosses served a variety of functions. In churchyards they served as stations for outdoor processions, particularly in the observance of Palm Sunday. Elsewhere, standing crosses were used within settlements as places for preaching, public proclamation and penance, as well as defining rights of sanctuary. Standing crosses were also employed to mark boundaries between parishes, property, or settlements. A few crosses were erected to commemorate battles. Some crosses were linked to particular saints, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke. Crosses in market places may have helped to validate transactions. After the Reformation, some crosses continued in use as foci for municipal or borough ceremonies, for example as places for official proclamations and announcements; some were the scenes of games or recreational activity. Standing crosses were distributed throughout England and are thought to have numbered in excess of 12,000. However, their survival since the Reformation has been variable, being much affected by local conditions, attitudes and religious sentiment. In particular, many cross-heads were destroyed by iconoclasts during the 16th and 17th centuries. Less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses, with or without cross-heads, are now thought to exist. The oldest and most basic form of standing cross is the monolith, a stone shaft often set directly in the ground without a base. The most common form is the stepped cross, in which the shaft is set in a socket stone and raised upon a flight of steps; this type of cross remained current from the 11th to 12th centuries until after the Reformation. Where the cross-head survives it may take a variety of forms, from a lantern-like structure to a crucifix; the more elaborate examples date from the 15th century. Much less common than stepped crosses are spire-shaped crosses, often composed of three or four receding stages with elaborate architectural decoration and/or sculptured figures; the most famous of these include the Eleanor crosses, erected by Edward I at the stopping places of the funeral cortege of his wife, who died in 1290. Also uncommon are the preaching crosses which were built in public places from the 13th century, typically in the cemeteries of religious communities and cathedrals, market places and wide thoroughfares; they include a stepped base, buttresses supporting a vaulted canopy, in turn carrying either a shaft and head or a pinnacled spire. Standing crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval customs, both secular and religious, and to our knowledge of medieval parishes and settlement patterns. All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their original location, are considered worthy of protection.

The Callington churchyard cross has survived well and is a good example of a lantern cross, a rare form of churchyard cross in Cornwall. The elaborate cross-head is probably part of the original churchyard cross. The cross head is still functioning as a churchyard cross, though not on its original shaft and base.


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross in Callington churchyard in south east Cornwall.

The Callington churchyard cross survives as a composite of two former medieval crosses: the head of one cross is set on the shaft and base of another. The granite lantern head (so called because the shape of the rectangular head is of a similar shape to a lantern), is set on an octagonal shaft and base. The overall height of the monument is 2.82m. The head measures 0.87m high. The principal faces are orientated north east-south west. The head is elaborately decorated with sculpted figures set within canopies topped with pointed arches. The top of the head rises towards a point in the centre and the eroded remains of elaborate pinnacles adorn each corner. On the north east face there is a crucifixion scene, a figure of Christ hanging from the cross. On the south east face there is a bishop, on the south west face a Madonna, and on the north west face a Virgin and Child. The four corners of the head form moulded edges to the canopies, and the base of the head slopes upwards from the shaft to form a `v'shaped base to the canopies, below the figures. The elaborate decoration is worn and parts of the top of the head and sides of the canopies have been fractured in the past. The head is set at a slight angle on to an octagonal-section granite shaft with a cemented join. The shaft measures 1.63m high, and is square at the base, which measures 0.42m wide and 0.27m thick. The octagonal sides each measure 0.16m wide, except for two sides which measure 0.21m on the north east and south west faces. The north, east, south and west sides of the shaft slope out 0.27m above the base, to form the square section moulded foot. The shaft is set in an octagonal granite base with a rounded moulding along its upper edge. Below the moulding the base slopes down to meet its outer edge. The base measures 1.04m north west-south east by 0.91m north east-south west, and is 0.32m high. The top of the base on the north west side has an extensive cement repair.

The shaft and base have survived in their original position though surmounted by a cross-head from another cross, probably the head of the churchyard cross. The cross-head may have been added to the shaft around 1951.

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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 6800.03,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 26/36; Pathfinder Series 1348 Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Map; SX 26/36; Pathfinder Series 1348 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.

End of official listing

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