Early Christian memorial stone and churchyard cross in Sancreed churchyard, 10m south of the church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015615

Date first listed: 27-Oct-1967

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Early Christian memorial stone and churchyard cross in Sancreed 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: Sancreed

National Grid Reference: SW 42023 29338

Reasons for Designation

Early Christian memorial stones are inscribed free-standing stones commemorating named individuals and dating to the early medieval period (c.AD 400-1100). The stones are erect, roughly dressed or undressed slabs, bearing incised inscriptions, usually set in one or more vertical lines down one face of the slab, although in four examples the text runs horizontally across the slab. All except two recorded texts are in Latin and, depending on their date, may be inscribed in a script of Romanised capitals or an insular form of lower case lettering called miniscules, or a mixture of the two. Six stones also have inscriptions in an Irish script called ogham. Most inscriptions are simple, bearing a personal name and often stating a family relationship, such as `filii' (son of), to another personal name. Fourteen stones contain elements of the simple inscriptions within a longer, complex inscriptive formula, often including the phrase `hic iacet' (here lies). Additional decoration is found on very few stones and usually comprises a cross within a circle. Early examples, prior to the eighth century AD, may bear an early Christian symbol called a Chi Rho monogram, compounding the first two Greek letters of the name `Christ'. Early Christian memorial stones are largely restricted to areas which retained Celtic traditions during the early medieval period, with at least 139 recorded from Wales. In England, they are almost entirely confined to the south-west peninsula; of the 56 recorded examples, 37 occur in Cornwall, 11 in Devon, a group of 5 in Dorset, and single examples in Somerset, Hampshire and Shropshire. As a very rare and diverse class of monument important for our understanding of the social organisation and the development of literacy and Christianity during the early medieval period, all surviving groundfast examples of early Christian memorial stones are considered worthy of protection.

The early Christian memorial stone in Sancreed churchyard has survived well, retaining parts of two inscriptions. Its inversion and reuse as an ornate churchyard cross is extremely rare. It is considered to be the best example of incised decoration in Cornwall and the lily in a vase motif is not recorded elsewhere. This memorial stone has received mention in regional reviews on the nature of early Christianity.


The monument includes an early Christian memorial stone and medieval churchyard cross set in a medieval wayside cross base 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 circular granite cross base. The overall height of the monument is 2.41m. The head measures 0.45m high by 0.44m wide and is 0.24m thick. The principal faces are orientated south west-north east. Both faces are decorated with an equal limbed cross with widely splayed arms linked by a recessed space between the limbs. The edges of the limbs are outlined with a single bead. The ends of the side limbs are also outlined with a single bead. The north east face bears a figure of Christ in relief, wearing a tunic and with outstretched arms. The legs extend on to the top of the shaft and the feet rest on a rounded projection. The south west face is decorated with a central incised ring. The almost square section shaft measures 1.84m high by 0.25m wide at the base widening slightly to 0.27m at the top and is 0.25m thick at the base tapering slightly to 0.23m at the top. The shaft has a narrow bead on all four corners and all four faces are decorated. The north east principal face is divided into three panels: the small upper panel containing an incised rectangle divided up with incised lines from corner to corner; the long central panel is decorated with an incised design of a fleur de lys or lily on a long stem, ending in a vase shaped base; the lower panel has some markings at the top which the historian Langdon in 1896 recorded as the remains of an inscription running horizontally across the shaft in two lines which he read as `INCX', with another X below. This inscription probably dates from the sixth century. The south west face is decorated with an incised rectangle divided by incised lines from corner to corner as on the north east face, and below that is an incised shield shape; both motifs are at the upper part of the shaft. The north west side is divided into three panels: the upper panel contains a rectangular motif identical with those on the north east and south west faces; the central panel contains an incised zig-zag pattern; and the lower panel contains some indistinct markings, and terminates in a semicircular incised line. The south east side has two panels, the upper containing a rectangular shape with a cross motif, and the lower panel a relief diagonal key pattern. Below this panel is a worn inscription in two parallel lines down the shaft; it is incised in an early medieval form of script derived from Roman style capitals and has been read as `FILIVS IC'. The form of the inscription and the style of the lettering suggest a sixth century date for this inscription. The shaft is mounted in a circular granite base, which is only partly visible; it is mostly covered by turf. The base measures at least 0.9m in diameter and is 0.12m high. The base and shaft have a distinct lean to the south west.

This cross was originally an early Christian memorial stone dating to the sixth century, as the remains of the two inscriptions, one on the south east side of the shaft, and the other on the north east face indicate. Later, the memorial stone was inverted, the medieval cross formed out of the base of the memorial stone and the shaft decorated with incised designs. This reuse of the memorial stone is believed to have occurred in the 12th century, as the decoration on the sides of the shaft and the shape of the head closely resemble that of another cross in Sancreed churchyard. This cross was considered to have been in its original position until the historian Langdon visited it sometime prior to June 1895. Langdon had the soil removed around the base of the cross and discovered the two inscriptions described above. On consultation with the vicar, Rev Basset Rogers, it was decided to set the cross on a base. A cross base on Treganhoe Farm which had been built into a hedge on the road between Sancreed and Lower Drift, was removed and brought to Sancreed churchyard. Treganhoe Farm is 0.75km to the ENE of Sancreed church. The cross base probably originally supported a wayside cross which marked a route within the parish to the church at Sancreed. The cross was mounted onto the base and re-erected in its present position in the churchyard in June 1895. The kerb surround and headstone to the south of the cross and the metalled surface of the footpath to the north east 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. 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: 29210

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)
Consulted 1995, Cornwal SMR entry for Prn No. 28712.81,
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 28712.11,
Consulted 1995, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN No. 28712.12,
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 32/42; Pathfinder Series 1368 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing