Cross in the churchyard of St George's Church
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2020 at 19:46:09.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- West Somerset (District Authority)
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- SS 98995 43662
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.
Although the original cross head and part of the shaft have been removed, the major part of the medieval cross in the churchyard of St Georges's church survives well in its original prominent setting opposite the west door of the church.
The monument includes a medieval cross which is located opposite the west
door of the Parish and Priory Church of St George, Dunster. It is Listed
The remains of the original 15th century or earlier cross structure are
three circuclar base steps, a socket stone, and the stump of a shaft. The
base steps are constructed from uniformly sized stone blocks laid out in a
circular plan with each step decreasing in size. The lowest step is 0.1m
high, 0.3m deep, and 3.6m in diameter and the highest is 0.15m high, 0.55m
deep and is surmounted by an octagonal socket stone 0.45m high with
mouldings on its upper part; the remaining 0.5m of rounded shaft is set
The cross stands in the churchyard of the church, which can trace its
history back to at least 1090. This church acted as both the parish and as
the priory church serving the nearby Benedictine priory some surviving
remains of which are located in the area to the north of the church. The
parish church still retains the title `Parish and Priory church of St
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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Pooley, C, Old Stone Crosses of Somerset, (1877), 154
Freeman, E A, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society' in Dunster Priory Church, , Vol. 6, no 2, (1855), 1-16
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