Churchyard cross in St Columb Major churchyard, 12m east of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014219

Date first listed: 01-Nov-1950

Date of most recent amendment: 05-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in St Columb Major churchyard, 12m east of the church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Columb Major

National Grid Reference: SW 91335 63683


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 St Columb Major churchyard cross has survived well. It forms a good example of an elaborately decorated four-holed, wheel-headed cross. It is well executed and has several rare features, including the trefoil shape of the four holes, a form of decoration unique to Cornwall, and the short, slender shaft. It maintains its function as a churchyard cross.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the east of the church in St Columb Major in northern central Cornwall. The churchyard cross is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head set in a round granite base, measuring 1.08m in overall height. The head measures 0.8m high by 0.82m wide and is 0.14m thick. The head is fully pierced by four holes creating an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by an outer ring. Each of these holes have three rounded ribs running through them, one on the side of each limb and one on the ring, forming the holes into a trefoil shape. The principal faces are orientated east-west and both faces are decorated. Each face bears a double bead on the outer ring, which continues across the four limbs, and the edges of the limbs are outlined with a single bead. Each of the limbs on the east face are also decorated with an interlace knot, and at the intersection of the limbs is a central round boss with a bead around its base. The limbs extend slightly beyond the ring. The shaft measures 0.14m high by 0.3m wide and is 0.15m thick. The shaft is set in a roughly round granite base. This base measures 0.76m east-west by 0.89m north-south and is 0.14m high. This cross is a finely executed example of a churchyard cross, and it is probably of tenth century date. The historian Langdon suggested that the short length of shaft was complete as it is very slender. The historian Henderson suggested that the cross may have originally stood in the centre of St Columb Major as there are records of a cross there in 1422, 1442 and 1558. It is probably the original churchyard cross. The grave and its gravestone to the south west of the cross but within its protective margin is excluded from the scheduling, although 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.

Legacy System number: 28459

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 21585,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 86/96; Pathfinder Series 1346 Source Date: 1985 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing