Churchyard cross in Lanivet churchyard, 30m north of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014230

Date first listed: 11-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in Lanivet churchyard, 30m north 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: Lanivet

National Grid Reference: SX 03954 64241


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.

This churchyard cross at Lanivet has survived well. It forms a good and complete example of a wheel-headed cross. This cross is the most elaborately decorated wheel headed cross in Cornwall. Its incised and dotted decoration is uncommon, and the figure of a man with a `tail' is most unusual. The cross dates to the tenth century, and maintains its original function as a churchyard cross in its original location.


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


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the north of Lanivet church in southern central Cornwall. The churchyard cross is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head, measuring 2.93m in overall height. The head measures 0.61m high by 0.56m wide, the principal faces orientated east-west. Both principal faces display an equal limbed cross with slightly splayed ends to the limbs and a circular boss with a bead around its base at the intersection of the limbs. There is a narrow bead around the outer edge of both faces. The upper part of the south side of the head has been fractured; part of the upper limb and most of the side limb are missing. The shaft measures 2.32m high by 0.47m wide at the base tapering to 0.35m at the neck, and is 0.3m thick at the base. There is a bead on all four corners of the shaft. Each face of the shaft is decorated with incised patterns, motifs and rows of little holes or dots. The east face is divided into five panels: the top panel depicts two oval rings crossing each other to form a diagonal cross. The next panel is the largest panel on the cross and displays the incised figure of a man 0.87m tall, with both feet turned to the left. On the lower right side of the figure is a `tail' with a heart-shaped motif half way down its length, and two short lines across the end of the `tail'. The corresponding area on the left side of the figure is filled with dots. It has been suggested that this `tail' motif is either a tail or a key on a string. There is an unknown saint who is often portrayed with a key, and it is probable that this figure is another representation of this saint. It has also been suggested that this figure may show pagan influence. Below this figure is a panel of relief interlace pattern. The next panel consists of three rows of dots, and the bottom panel is divided into two by a vertical incised line, one side filled with dots, the other side sub-divided in two, one half filled with dots, the other half containing a Latin cross. The west face is divided into six panels, the top panel consists of two rows of dots, divided from the next panel by two incised lines. This panel is similar to the top panel on the east face, two oval rings crossing to form a diagonal cross. The next panel down is an incised diagonal cross, and below that a panel of relief interlace design. Next is a panel of three rows of dots, and the bottom panel contains an incised Latin cross with possibly a crosier incised on the left of the cross, the hook curling round the head of the cross. The south side of the shaft is decorated with six panels. The top one is a long panel of rows of dots. The next panel is an incised diagonal cross, followed by a plain, narrow panel. The next panel contains an incised Latin cross, followed by a plain panel, and the bottom panel is a long one of rows of dots. The north side of the shaft is also divided into six panels, the long top panel containing an equal limbed cross surrounded by rows of dots. The next panel has a diagonal cross, followed by a panel of dots. The next panel contains two concentric circles; the decoration on the two lower panels has worn away. There is a 0.12m diameter hole, 0.08m deep in the bottom panel, 0.51m above ground level. The shaft is set into a base which is buried over 30cm below the present ground level. This churchyard cross is believed to be in its original location. There is a tradition that it is positioned at the centre of Cornwall, `in the middle of the county, north, south, east and west'. This is one of two churchyard crosses in Lanivet churchyard, the only other churchyard with two such elaborate crosses is at Sancreed in west Cornwall. This cross is of tenth century date.

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: 28445

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 21205.03,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SX 06/16; Pathfinder Series 1347 Source Date: 1989 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing