Churchyard cross in St Mylor churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015065

Date first listed: 12-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in St Mylor churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Mylor

National Grid Reference: SW 82026 35236


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 Mylor churchyard has survived well, complete with its head and shaft, despite being reused as a buttress. It is a good example of a wheel headed cross, and is the tallest cross recorded in Cornwall. Its projections at the neck are unusual, as is the almost square shaft, and the decoration. The reuse of the cross as a buttress, and its re-erection in the churchyard in the 19th century demonstrates well the changes in attitude to religion and its impact on the local landscape since the medieval period. This cross maintains its original function as a churchyard cross near 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 Mylor church on the south coast of west Cornwall.

The churchyard cross, which is Listed Grade II*, is visible as an upright granite shaft with a round or `wheel' head. The overall height of the monument is 3.2m. The principal faces are orientated east-west. Both principal faces are decorated with an equal limbed cross with slightly splayed ends to the limbs, the limbs being formed by four deep triangular sinkings. A circular boss projects from the intersection of the limbs. The north side of the head has been fractured, to bring the head in line with the shaft. The shaft measures 2.39m high by 0.36m wide and is 0.37m thick. The shaft is decorated with an incised design of concentric circles on both principal faces. At the neck, there are two rounded projections or bosses, one to either side of the shaft. Each boss is decorated with a single incised circle on each face. Both of these bosses have been fractured along their sides.

This churchyard cross was found buried head down in use as a flying buttress against the south side of the church. It was re-erected in the churchyard in 1870 during the rebuilding of the church. It has been suggested that this cross is a reused menhir or standing stone. It is the tallest cross in Cornwall, although 2.1m of its length is buried. The historian Langdon in 1896 recorded a local tradition that the cross originally marked St Mylor's grave, on or near to its present site.

The metalled surface of the footpath passing to the south of the cross, the stone vase to the west, the iron railings to the south east and the gravestones to the north fall within the cross's protective margin, and 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29225

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 24395.2,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 83; Pathfinder Series 1366 Source Date: 1984 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing