Lanherne Cross, standing cross in the grounds of the convent, Lanherne
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SW 87219 65926
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.
Despite limited damage, Laherne cross is substantially intact, its elaborate decoration and inscriptions being clearly visible. The zoomorphic interlace which occurs in the decoration is very rare on monuments of this type in Cornwall. The comparisons between design features and text on this cross and those of a small group of comparable monuments near its place of origin will contribute to our understanding of the crafting, functions, and social context of crosses.
The scheduling includes a standing cross of the 10th or 11th century
situated just north east of the convent at Lanherne, on the south west
side of the Vale of Mawgan. The cross is associated with a number of
others nearby, one of which forms the subject of a separate scheduling.
Lanherne Cross is made of a single piece of Pentewan stone. This is a
freestone, or comparatively easily worked stone, from south Cornwall. The
cross has a tapering shaft, and a head of the type known as four holed,
where a stone ring links the cross limbs, enclosing holes between them.
The cross stands 1.49m high, and is rectangular in section, being 0.3m
wide (north west-south east) by 0.22m thick (north east-south west) at
The sculpture of shaft and head is accomplished with a high degree of
symmetry. The shaft has an entasis, or slight bulging of its sides, more
apparent when viewed from the front; it contracts to 0.24m wide and 0.16m
thick at the neck. The head is 0.34m high, 0.42m wide, and up to 0.15m
thick. The limbs of the cross are expanded, increasing in width from the
centre to their outer ends; the arms, lifted just above the horizontal,
increase from 0.11m to 0.13m, the upper limb from 0.14m to 0.19m, and the
lower limb from 0.16m to 0.31m where it merges with the shaft. The
connecting ring is set back a little behind the cross limbs.
The relief decoration of the cross is comprehensive and elaborate. Several
irregularities or errors are visible in the design, but the carving is
neatly executed. There is beading (or rounded section linear moulding)
along the angles, continued around the edges of the cross arms and upper
On the front, the ornamentation is dominated by the prominent figure of
Christ crucified, rendered in high relief. The figure has extended arms
with fingers visible. There are protrusions thought to represent the rib
cage, and clothing is indicated by a lower hem at the level of the neck of
the cross. The feet are turned outwards, and slanting down, so that they
appear to stand on the upper curve of the pattern on the shaft beneath.
This pattern features an interlaced band, each section of which is made up
of three parallel strands defined by incised lines. The lower end of the
interlace, around two thirds of the way down the shaft, is finished in a
knot. At its top, however, the pattern is not finished off, and several of
its component strands are continued up to the cross head, running up from
the feet of the figure of Christ, parallel with the legs. Underneath this
pattern, separated from it by double beading across the shaft, is another
panel containing a text arranged in four horizontal lines, thought to
include one or more personal names.
The decoration on the rear of the cross head, comprising five round
bosses, is in high relief like that on its front. The bosses are arranged
symmetrically, one in the centre and one on each arm, and are
approximately 0.08m in diameter. On the shaft below is an interlace
pattern containing two distinct knots, extending down three quarters of
the shaft. Each section of the interlaced band has three strands. The
division between the top of the pattern and the cross head is not
delineated, and the upper knotwork extends onto the lower cross limb.
Towards the bottom of the shaft, a simple engraved line divides the
pattern from the text below. This is inscribed horizontally on two lines,
and is interpreted as a personal name.
On the north west side of the cross, the shaft is covered by an interlaced
band with two strands, terminated at the bottom by a knot. On the south
east side, the decoration on the shaft takes the form of a zoomorphic or
animal motif. The head of a creature, upside down, extends across the
base, and its ribbon-like body twists up to the top of the panel and back
in an interlace pattern, finished off by the device of the head holding
the tail in its mouth. The patterns on the ends of the arms on both
narrow sides of the cross are similar, each having two intersecting
double-stranded oval bands.
Lanherne cross is understood to have been brought to its present site from
Roseworthy, in Gwinear, west Cornwall, in the later 18th or early 19th
century, and has strong similarities to several other contemporary crosses
in west Cornwall. It has limited damage to the head and the bottom of the
shaft, thought to have occurred before the move to Lanherne.
The tarmac surface and its stone edging and the modern ornamental garden
furniture which fall within the cross's 2m protective margin are excluded
from the scheduling, although 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Blight, J T, Ancient Crosses and other Antiquities in the East of Cornwall, (1858), 31
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994), 51
Langdon, A G, Old Cornish Crosses, (1896), 357-359
Okasha, E, Corpus of Early Christian Inscribed Stones of South-west Britain, (1993), 18, 133
Preston-Jones, A, Okasha, E, Hiberno-Saxon Sculpture in Penwith, Cornwall, (1997), 24, 59
Lysons, Rev. D, Lysons, S, 'Magna Britannia' in Magna Britannia, , Vol. 3, (1814)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 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