Churchyard cross in Roche churchyard, 10m south of the church
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 23-May-2019 at 11:51:41.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SW 98794 59776
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 churchyard cross at Roche has survived well. It forms a good and complete example of a wheel-headed cross. Its square shaped head is unusual as are the projections at the neck. Its incised and dotted decoration is rare, and the incised sword motif on the shaft is unique. This cross dates to the tenth century, and maintains its original function as a churchyard cross, in its original location.
The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the south of
Roche church in central Cornwall.
The churchyard cross is visible as an upright granite shaft with an almost square shaped head, measuring 1.88m in overall height. The cross leans markedly towards the west. The head measures 0.67m high by 0.6m wide, the principal faces orientated east-west. Both principal faces display a low relief round boss with a bead around its base and four circular sinkings or shallow holes with slightly raised centres, one in each corner. The boss on the east face is positioned between the two lower holes, that on the west face is more centrally placed. Below the head at the neck of the cross are two projections or bosses which project 0.06m to either side of the shaft. The shaft measures 1.21m high by 0.41m wide at the base widening to 0.55m at the top, and is 0.32m thick at the base tapering slightly to 0.29m at the top. Each face of the shaft is decorated with incised lines and motifs and rows of little holes or dots. Both the east and west faces are decorated with random patterns of dots separated by incised lines. The north side has a 0.06m wide bead on both edges and is decorated with transverse incised lines giving a ribbed pattern down the length of the shaft. The south side is decorated with a few dots at the top with three small incised circles and below that an incised sword complete with hilt and blade. It has been suggested that this unusual motif may represent pagan influence. There are some short incised lines to the east side of the sword blade. The shaft is set in what appeared to be a lump of concrete, but may be its base stone. This base stone, in 1896 when the historian Langdon illustrated it, was buried 0.45m below the ground surface. In 1994 when Andrew Langdon recorded it, the base was still completely buried. This base is visible to the east and south of the shaft and projects 0.42m beyond the shaft to the east and 0.35m to the south. This churchyard cross is believed to be in its original location. The incised and dotted decoration on the shaft and the unusual decoration of the head date this cross to the tenth century.
The gravestone to the south of the cross and the gravestone to the north where they lay within the protective margin of the cross are 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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 85/95; Pathfinder 1353 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