MacLean’s Cross stands on the road between Port Rònain and the Abbey, not far from the nunnery and adjacent to the parish church. The route was the Sràid nam Marbh, or the ‘Street of the Dead’. The cross was commissioned in the late 15th century by the clan chief of the MacLeans of Duart.
The cross is more than 3 m tall. Pilgrims to the island would have stood facing the cross from the west side on which there is a carved crucifixion. Above the cross is a lily that symbolises the Virgin Mary.
On the reverse of the cross is a patterned motif, with two animals below the cross head.
The cross is the oldest monument in State Guardianship on the island. The cross still rests in the original socket slab, but the base is more recent. A Ministry of Works sign was provided to explain the cross.
The Ruthwell Cross now stands in a specially constructed apse (1887) in Ruthwell Parish Church (although it is in the care of Historic Scotland). It is some 5.7 m in height, and dates to the early 8th century.
The inscribed text includes sections of The Dream of the Rood linked to Caedmon.
The cross stood at the entrance to the Manse from 1823 to 1887 (when it was placed in the church).
St Augustine traditionally landed in Kent in 597. In 1884 the Second Earl of Granville, George Granville Leveson-Gower (1815-91) [ODNB], the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (1865-91), erected a Saxon style cross near the supposed spot where Augustine landed. Granville’s official residence was at Walmer Castle.
Granville’s wife was a Roman Catholic, and his sister, Lady Georgiana Charlotte Fullerton (1812-85) , had converted in 1846. The Times (13 October 1884) had reported Lady Georgiana’s letter announcing the creation of the cross at Granville’s “own expense, on his own land”, and that it was “an act of homage to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Apostolate of St Augustine, rendered by one of their Protestant fellow-countrymen, which is doubtless a cause of rejoicing to all English Catholics”.
The cross was carved by J. Roddis of Birmingham and was based on the Sandbach Crosses in Cheshire.
The accompanying Latin text, cut on the base of the cross (and with a plaque), was composed by Dr Henry George Liddell (1811-98), Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and compiler of the Greek Lexicon (Liddell-Scott). One of Liddell’s daughters, Alice, was celebrated by Lewis Carroll. Liddell had been Granville’s tutor at Christ Church in 1836 (see The Graphic 15 November 1884).
There is an elaborate carved cross-slab in Nigg church in Easter Ross, Scotland. It originally stood in the churchyard but has now been placed inside with a special viewing area. It has been suggested that the cross would have been seen from the adjacent Cromarty Firth.
The stone originally stood at 2.36 m high. In the triangular pediment at the top of the slab are St Paul and St Anthony with a raven, carrying a loaf, between them.
The rear of the stone contains a framed panel containing images that refer to King David.
The great replica of St John’s Cross dominates the western end of the Abbey on Iona. It has a span of some 2.2 m. (The original is in the site museum.) It appears to date from the 700s or 800s. The original cross was made from stone brought from Loch Sween in Argyll.
A cast of St John’s Cross features in the newly opened The ‘Celts: Art and Identity’ exhibition that has opened at The British Museum.
How far are these early Christian images ‘Celtic’? I find it interesting that the Historic Scotland guidebooks to Iona Abbey and Nunnery by Anna Ritchie and Ian Fisher (2001, rev. ed. 2011) and by Peter Yeoman and Nicki Scott (2011) appear to avoid the use of the word ‘Celtic’.