Cross Purposes: an introduction to mediaeval Manx crosses
Written by Sara Goodwins
An introduction to the carved stone crosses, why and how they were raised, what they show and purpose they served.
“The stonecarver would probably first have roughed out his design using chalk, or, if none were available – chalk does not occur naturally on the Isle of Man – used a mud paste to outline the design.”
Cross Purposes, page 7
The Isle of Man is noted for is its collection of stone crosses carved out of local slate and decorated with swirling designs and fantastic beasts. Christian symbols, they also carry the sagas and language of pagan Viking invaders.
For centuries the crosses stood majestically in the landscape braving the weather and changing fashions. Often they were the most striking man-made features in the Manx countryside. Today most of the ancient crosses have been given sheltered accommodation in their old age.
Yet, for something so famous quite a lot is still tantalisingly obscure. Who raised the crosses and why? How were they carved? Where did the stone come from? What do they mean? And do other countries have similar memorials?
This book explores and explains the stories behind these enigmas of the Manx landscape.
From the Publisher
What fascinated us most about the Manx crosses is not just their design or their antiquity, but the people they concern.
There are hints on the crosses themselves. The names of wealthy patrons who commissioned the work occasionally appear on the crosses: 'Hedin set this cross to the memory of his daughter Hlif'. 'Mal Lumkin raised this cross in memory of Malmury his foster mother...'. 'Odd raised this cross to the memory of his father Frakki'.
Those they commemorate are mentioned of course: 'to the memory of Ofeigr his father...' 'Ambecatus, son of Rocatus lies here.' '...of Grim the Black.'
And then there are the carvers: 'Juan the priest cut these runes' 'Thurith wrote these runes' 'Arni carved these runes.'
Most famous of all is Gautr whose cross at Kirk Michael claims that 'Gautr made me and all in Mann.' Early advertising!
The Manx crosses might look slightly alien to modern eyes, but their inscriptions show that the wishes and thoughts of the mediaeval people who created them are not so far removed from ourselves.
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