Monday 18 April 2016

A tenth-century Anglo-Saxon standing cross discovered at Louth, Lincolnshire

This aim of this post is simply to report the rather exciting discovery of two joining pieces from a Anglo-Saxon standing cross in the rectory garden at Louth, Lincolnshire, which David Stocker and Paul Everson have dated to the tenth century. Both of these pieces depict the body of the crucified Christ and the original ring-headed cross was probably a very substantial monument, several metres high, that must have been of considerable importance in the local area.

The two joining pieces of the Anglo-Saxon cross-head found at Louth, shown shortly after the discovery of the second piece; the surviving parts of the cross-head together measure around 0.4m top to bottom (image copyright © C. R. Green).

Needless to say, this new pre-Conquest cross is a very significant find indeed, and its discovery in Louth is of especial interest. The current parish church—which possesses the tallest parish spire in England—dates largely from the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, and whilst it contains within it the fabric of earlier churches dating back to the later twelfth century, this is by far the earliest Christian artefact yet found in the town. As such, it provides something of a 'missing link' between the medieval structural evidence of the parish church and the important documentary evidence for both a significant Middle Saxon minster at Louth which produced Offa of Mercia's last Archbishop of Canterbury, St Æthelheard (792–805), and a tenth-century shrine to Louth's own Anglo-Saxon saint, St Herefrith, who is thought to have been potentially the last ninth-century Bishop of Lindsey (c. 870 or thereabouts) and perhaps martyred by the Vikings.

For further details of the finding of the cross and commentary on its significance, see the press release from St James's Church and The Louth Cross sub-committee and the Lincolnshire Echo article on the Louth Cross, published this morning.

The largest piece of the cross-head, photographed shortly after its discovery during routine maintenance work (image copyright © Richard Gurnham, St James's Church, Louth, and The Louth Cross sub-committee). 

Compilation of views of the different sides of the cross-head; click the image for a larger view (image copyright © Chris Marshall, St James's Church, Louth, and The Louth Cross sub-committee).

St James's Church, Louth, from Westgate; the church possesses the tallest parish church spire in England, completed 1515 (image copyright © C. R. Green).

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