Churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard, immediately south of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015077

Date first listed: 27-Oct-1967

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard, immediately 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: Sancreed

National Grid Reference: SW 42024 29347


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.

This churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard has survived reasonably well, despite losing a small section of its shaft. It is a good example of a wheel headed cross. Its unusual and distinctive design makes this cross one of the earliest known churchyard crosses and provides important information on the production and stylistic development of pre Norman crosses, reflected in its specific mention in a recent study of this subject. The inscription of the name of its sculptor on the shaft is a rare feature.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a medieval churchyard cross situated to the south of Sancreed church on the Penwith peninsula in the far west of Cornwall. This is one of five 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 modern granite base. The overall height of the monument is 1.94m. The head measures 0.49m high by 0.52m wide and is 0.16m thick. The principal faces are orientated north-south. Both faces are decorated with an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by a recessed area between the limbs. The edges of the limbs are outlined with a single bead. The south face bears a figure of Christ in relief, with outstretched arms, and a bead or halo around its head. The figure wears a tunic and has a band around the waist; the legs extend onto the top of the shaft and have out-turned feet. The north face bears a central circular boss with an interlaced knot on each limb; the knots are linked together around the central boss. The shaft measures 1.39m high by 0.32m wide at the base tapering slightly to 0.29m at the top and is 0.18m thick. There is a fracture across the shaft 0.2m below the head, which has been repaired with cement. There is probably a section of shaft missing here as the lower shaft is slightly wider and thicker than the upper shaft. The shaft has a narrow bead on all four corners and all four faces are decorated. The south principal face is divided into three panels: the short upper panel has been defaced, the middle panel bears interlaced knots, and the lower panel bears a short inscription in two horizontal lines. This inscription is incised in an early medieval form of script derived from Roman style capitals and reads `RUNHO'. This name is considered to be the signature of the sculptor. There is another similar cross, from the West Penwith area, now at Lanherne on the north coast of Cornwall, which bears the name Runhol. This is believed to be an Anglo-Saxon name, and it is thought that the sculptor came from the Bodmin/east Cornwall area as the decoration on the back of this cross at Sancreed is very similar to that on the churchyard cross at Cardinham, north of Bodmin. The north face bears a single long panel with pairs of interlaced knots. The west side bears a long panel of diagonal key pattern, and the east side is decorated with a long panel containing a serpentine figure with its body and tail formed from interlace work. The decoration on the shaft is not easily visible as it is well worn and extensively covered in lichen. The modern rectangular granite base measures 0.67m east-west by 0.4m north- south and is 0.06m high above ground level. The shaft of this churchyard cross was discovered by the vicar, Rev Basset Rogers, during restoration of the church in 1881, built into the east wall of the church. The head had been located on the western churchyard wall for many years. The vicar had the shaft removed from the church wall, and had the head cemented to the shaft. The cross was re-erected in the churchyard against the hedge by the entrance to the vicarage. The historian Langdon visited the cross in 1894 and had the cross taken down so that he could record the decoration on the face against the hedge. He then persuaded the vicar to re-erect the cross on a modern base in the churchyard in its present position, in June 1894. The inscription and the interlace decoration combine to suggest that this cross dates to the tenth century. The grave with its kerb surround and marble statue to the east of the cross, the casket tombstone to the south, and the cement gutters at the base of the church walls to the west and north of the cross, all fall within its 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: 29209

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896)
Pearce, S M, The Kingdom of Dumnonia, (1978)
Thomas, C, And Shall These Mute Stones Speak?, (1994)
Thomas, C, 'Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Sculpture and its Context' in Ninth Century Sculpture in Cornwall: a note, , Vol. No. 49, (1978), p.75-9
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 28712.3,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing