Standing cross immediately west of St Mawgan Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020867

Date first listed: 28-Jan-2003


Ordnance survey map of Standing cross immediately west of St Mawgan 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: Mawgan-in-Pydar

National Grid Reference: SW 87206 65950


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.

Despite limited damage, the cross immediately west of St Mawgan Church is substantially intact. The lantern type cross-head is comparatively rare, and the intricacy of the sculpture of this example is outstanding. As the cross is thought to be in its original position, it illustrates well how some crosses served as foci for religious practices within churchyards in the medieval period.


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


The scheduling includes a 15th century standing cross, situated immediately west of St Mawgan Church, on the south west side of the Vale of Mawgan. It is associated with other crosses nearby, one of which forms the subject of a separate scheduling. The cross is 1.76m high overall and measures up to 0.6m across at its base. It has an elaborately sculpted and decorated four-sided lantern type head, a hexagonal sectioned shaft, and a flat hexagonal plan base, made of three separate pieces of Cateclewse greenstone. This is a freestone, or comparatively easily worked stone, with a blue-green tinge, from a fairly local source on the north coast of Cornwall. The base stands on top of a plinth of earth and stone thought to be relatively recent in its present form which is irregular in plan, measuring up to approximately 2m across, and 0.2m to 0.5m high. The cross head is near-square in section, measuring 0.33m across NNE-SSW and 0.31m WNW-ESE, and is 0.65m high. It has a concave moulded six-sided collar tapering to the shaft. Above the collar is a platform with downward sloping edges, forming the floor of the lantern-like structure which rises from it. This has corner pillars linked by an arch with ogee, or slightly S-shaped, sides over each face of the head, and a canopy, or roof, rising to an apex behind and slightly below the gables of the arches. There is evidence to show that the cross-head was designed to have a superstructure, probably incorporating ornate pinnacles. The tops of the pillars at its corners, the gables of its four arches, and the apex of its canopy, have flat upper surfaces, with central holes across for connecting tenons or pins, showing that all these points were made to support further sculpture. The gable on the WNW side is restored and is slightly larger than the others. The lantern frame is decorated in relief with foliate, or leafy, motifs and beading (rounded section linear moulding) on the corner pillars. Within it on each of the four sides is a recess containing a figure or figures around 0.3m high in high relief, with trefoil, or three-lobed, devices above them in the heads of the arches. The recesses in two opposing sides of the lantern contain arrangements of several divine figures, rendered in higher relief of around 0.07m. These properties, with the slightly greater width of their frames, identify these as the front and back of the cross-head. The front (ESE) face has a representation of the Trinity, with figure of God, seated on a throne, supporting a half-height crucifix in the foreground. The scene on the back is of the annunciation, with God sending forth the angel Gabriel to proclaim the coming of Jesus to Mary. On each of the narrower sides is a bishop. The recesses are linked by piercings behind the corner pillars. These increase the play of light on the figures, and enhance the almost three-dimensional effect of the relief carving. On the north east side, where the corner pillar is missing, the fine chiselling to the inner parts of the various elements of the sculpture where they spring from the core of the cross-head is clearly visible. The shaft is 1m high. At its lower end, it has pyramidal chamfer stops or mouldings terminating its faces in such a way that its bottom is rectangular in section, measuring 0.24m by 0.19m. The base stone is slightly irregular in plan. It has a central rectangular socket for the shaft. The height of the stone above the surface of the surrounding plinth is 0.1m. There is evidence of cracking countered by relatively recent restoration. The plinth has a flattish top, and vertical sides revetted with local rubble stone. The facing stones are in the region of 0.3m long, 0.05m high, and 0.3m thick, and are laid horizontally in rough courses. The cross is Listed Grade II*. The modern grave memorial stone, path surface and iron railing are excluded from the scheduling where they fall within its 2m protective margin, although the ground beneath them 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: 32972

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Blight, J T, Ancient Crosses and other Antiquities in the East of Cornwall, (1858), 59
Langdon, A, Stone Crosses in Mid Cornwall, (1994), 67
Hitchens, F, Drew, S, 'A History of Cornwall' in A History of Cornwall, , Vol. 2, (1824), 459
SW 86 NE 13, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1908 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing