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'A pillar curiously engraven; with some inscription upon it': What is the Ruthwell Cross?

Pamela O’Neill
Publication Year:
211pp. Illustrated throughout with maps, plans, figures, drawings and photographs
ISBN 10:
BAR number:


The Ruthwell Cross is near the village of Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, in south-west Scotland. It is inside the Ruthwell parish church, in a purpose-built semi-circular apse with a sunken floor. It is a sculptured stone monument in the shape of a freestanding cross about 5.3m tall. This book aims towards a comprehensive explanation of the Ruthwell Cross. It seeks to define the form of the early medieval monument or monuments incorporated in the reconstruction. It considers the issues relating to workmanship and likeness to other sculpture. Conclusions are drawn as to the likely background of the artists, and probable sources for their models. The book also examines the questions of meaning, message and audience. Suggestions are made about the nature of the religious community for whom the monument was made. This book addresses a wide range of questions about the Ruthwell Cross and suggests why, how and for whom it was made. This discussion aims to present a more considered and detailed assessment of the monument's original form, creating a new basis for future consideration of the monument. The wide-ranging discussion of the people involved in its creation and their aims and methods will present a unified approach to these questions, linking historical figures with material evidence to postulate a context for the original Ruthwell monument.