I’ve been intrigued by this medieval monument for a few years and managed to get some decent pictures of it whilst photographing St Leonard’s Church in February of 2017. Despite it’s worn and torn look it’s quite fascinating in it’s own right.
The original site of the stone cross was a hill, now a cemetery, elsewhere in the village. It was moved to it’s current location in 1947 and is one of two in the village, the other still set in it’s original place which is now the end of a suburban cul-de-sac.
Historic England has this to say about this particular cross:
It comprises a slightly tapering rectangular section shaft of magnesian limestone set on a modern sandstone base. The shaft measures c.1.3m high and 30cm by 25cm at the base. All four corners are moulded, the western pair with roll-moulding and the eastern pair with faint traces of nodules at regular intervals. The mouldings frame panels of carved decoration on all four faces.
However, because the cross is not in its original location, it is not known if the faces are correctly orientated. The narrow south face is decorated with vine-scroll comprising two intertwining stems cut off at the base by an uncarved section. The north face bears a form of interlace decoration with a single boss at the centre of the pattern and foliage forms near the base. The wider east face contains a tree form with a straight central stem surrounded by foliage which is apparently damaged at the base. On the west face, at the base, is the torso of a tonsured monk holding a book and set in a niche surrounded by a roll-moulded lancet. Above the lancet is an area of decoration which cannot be deciphered due to its faintness. Above that is a four-legged hoofed animal and, above that, the feet, shins and robe-hem of a human figure. The last indicates that the shaft is broken and would originally have been at least 50cm taller.
The varied forms of the decoration make the cross difficult to date. The lancet on the west face and an acanthus leaf on the north face both suggest a 13th century date. However, the interlace and vine-scroll may be 11th century or earlier and suggest that the later forms may be the result of re-carving.
(Source: Historic England website)
The medieval age of the stone cross is what drew me to it in the first place – it’s fascinating to think a place so familiar to me on a personal level has been home to this piece of stone for over 900 years. Crosses like this were put up for a variety of reasons between the 10th and 16th century.
They marked way stations for processions in medieval churchyards, were used to define public areas and boundaries within settlements, define points of sanctuary as well as mark battle sites. It’s believed there were up to 12000 throughout England at the time of the Reformation, the most famous of these probably being the Eleanor Crosses erected by Edward I between 1291 and 1294 to the memory of his late wife Eleanor of Castile.
It wasn’t uncommon for a stone cross to be associated with a particular saint, whose support and protection their presence would have helped to invoke, and the one in Thrybergh is associated with the legend of St Leonard of Reresby.
Sadly, such medieval stone crosses didn’t fair well during the Reformation. Their survival seem to have depended on the local attitudes and religious sentiment of the time and area. The iconoclasts of the 16th and 17th Century were responsible for defacing and disfiguring many of these religious monuments. As a result, there is currently less than 2,000 medieval standing crosses – intact or otherwise – throughout England.
All crosses which survive as standing monuments, especially those which stand in or near their original location, are considered worthy of protection in my view and the stone cross at Thrybergh has Grade II Listed status (more on that here). There is a wonderful legend behind the cross which is something I’ll elucidate in separate posting, along with some more details about the church itself.