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
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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:
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