Churchyard cross in St Levan churchyard, 10m south of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015059

Date first listed: 20-Jul-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in St Levan churchyard, 10m south 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. Levan

National Grid Reference: SW 38037 22197


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 Levan's churchyard has survived well, complete with its head, shaft and base. It is a good example of a wheel headed cross, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of this type of cross in Cornwall. There is no record of the cross ever having been moved. This cross 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 south of St Levan's Church on the south coast of Penwith in the far west of Cornwall. This is one of two crosses now present in the churchyard. The churchyard cross, which is Listed Grade II, is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head, set on a large granite base. The overall height of the monument is 2.1m. The head measures 0.49m in diameter and is 0.25m thick. The principal faces are orientated east-west. Both principal faces are decorated. The west face bears a figure of Christ in high relief, the head slightly inclined to the north, wearing a tunic and with arms outstretched. The ends of the arms are slightly splayed, indicating the sleeves of the tunic. The ends of the legs rest on a rounded projection; the figure does not appear to have feet. The lower part of the figure extends onto the top of the shaft. On both principal faces the outer edge of the cross-head is outlined with a single narrow bead. The east face is decorated with a relief equal-limbed cross with expanded ends to the limbs; the lower limb has a narrow shaft extending down onto the shaft of the cross. This shaft motif widens slightly towards its end and terminates 0.22m above the cross base. The shaft measures 0.5m at the base tapering to 0.34m at the top and is 0.23m thick. The shaft has a bead on all four corners and all four faces are decorated. The west principal face bears three panels of incised design; the upper two each have a diagonal line from corner to corner; the lower panel has two parallel diagonal lines from corner to corner. This decoration starts immediately below the Christ figure, and terminates 0.76m above the base. The east face bears the lower limb of the Latin cross motif. The north side is decorated with an incised lattice work design, and the south side bears an incised cross shaped motif with its arms raised; below this motif is an incised zig-zag design. The circular granite base measures 1.12m north-south by 0.48m east-west and is 0.36m high. It is levelled into the ground; the full extent of the east side is not visible as it is covered in turf. This churchyard cross is believed to be in its original location in St Levan churchyard. The historian Langdon in 1896 considered this cross to be `one of the most elegant and well proportioned' wheel headed crosses in Cornwall. The gravel surface of the footpath and its granite kerbstones passing to the west of the cross, the low granite wall edging of the footpath to the south, the gravestones to the west and east, the three granite steps to the north, and the kerb surrounds of graves to the north east and south east of the cross fall within its protective margin, and are all 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: 29217

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Consulted 1996, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 28301.4,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing