Churchyard cross in St Just's churchyard, 10m west of the church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015057
Date first listed: 01-Feb-1961
Date of most recent amendment: 04-Sep-1996
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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. Just
National Grid Reference: SW 37130 31434
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 churchyard cross in St Just's churchyard has survived reasonably well, despite the loss of its lower shaft and base. It is a good example of a wheel headed cross, with an unusual figure of Christ on a cross motif. The cross maintains its original function in its original churchyard. The removal of the cross from its original site, and its later recovery from a well and re-erection in the churchyard demonstrate well the changing attitudes to religion since the medieval period, and their impact on the local landscape.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross to the west of the church at
St Just on the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall.
The granite churchyard cross, which is Listed Grade II, survives as an upright
shaft with a round or `wheel' head, set on a modern granite base. The overall
height of the monument is 1.29m. The head measures 0.46m high by 0.49m wide
and is 0.16m thick. The principal faces are orientated north east-south west.
Both principal faces are decorated. The south west face bears a relief figure
of Christ with outstretched arms, wearing a tunic, and legs which extend onto
the top of the shaft. There is a bead or halo around the head, and the legs
terminate at the knee, where the shaft has been fractured. There is the
incised outline of a Latin cross around the figure, and a narrow bead around
the outer edge of the cross-head which extends down onto the shaft. The north
east face of the cross-head is decorated with an incised outline of a Latin
cross; the lower limb extends down the length of the shaft. There is a
fracture across the top and north side of the head on this face. The upper
shaft measures 0.21m high by 0.24m wide and is 0.17m thick. It is cemented
onto a modern section of shaft, 0.42m high by 0.26m wide and 0.19m thick. This
shaft is cemented into a modern rectangular granite base measuring 0.9m north
west-south east by 0.68m north east-south west and 0.2m high.
This churchyard cross was originally sited by the south west entrance to the
churchyard at St Just. The historian Langdon in 1896 recorded local memories
of the cross in this position, where the sexton would give out notices of
sales etc.after the church service on Sunday mornings. During the 19th
century it was removed and thrown down a well, though the cross base remained
in situ. The Rev Reeve recovered the cross from the well and placed it in a
rockery in the vicarage garden, where Langdon recorded it in 1896. Soon after
the cross was removed to the new cemetery and mounted on a modern three
stepped base. By 1960 the cross base had disappeared, and in 1965 the cross
was returned to the south west corner of the churchyard and mounted on a
modern lower shaft and base.
The figure of Christ motif is more widely found on crosses in west Cornwall,
notably around St Buryan, the site of a major Celtic monastery traditionally
founded by Althelstan in the early tenth century AD. A recent study of these
crosses has considered that they date to the late ninth or early tenth century
and provided a major design inspiration for the mid tenth century development
of a more highly elaborate series of west Cornish crosses.
The headstone to the north west of the cross falls within its protective
margin and 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 29214
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. 49, (1978), 75-9
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 29739.11,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 33/43/part 53; Pathfinder 1364 Source Date: 1989 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