Churches and High Crosses

Overview

The stone churches and carved monuments of Anglo-Saxon England are perhaps the most perceptible, widespread, and easily accessible works of art from this period of English culture.In the churches, often enveloped in later modifications, it is possible to disentangle the former early structures, and to identify the sources of architectural ideas that often lie in structures as far afield as Rome and Jerusalem. Together with the carved monuments (such as those at Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire and Masham in North Yorkshire), produced during the 8th and 9th centuries, they reflect the institutional concerns of their patrons, while at the same time raising questions concerning their perceived audiences. The later, Viking-age, sculptures, on the other hand, betray a complex interaction of Christian narrative with Scandinavian military taste and heroic mythology.

This module will focus on these structures as a means of exploring the arts of the stone builders and carvers of this early medieval period, and the complexities surrounding the production, decoration, and the roles of the patrons and audiences of these most public of early medieval arts.

Aims

By the end of the module students should have acquired the following:

  • a familiarity with the many ways in which stone was employed in the period
  • an understanding of some of the issues involved in the cultural transmission of the visual languages displayed in architecture and stone carving of the region
  • a knowledge of some of the major monuments of the period and their historical context
  • an understanding of some of the complexities of imagery and meaning in Anglo-Saxon sculpture
  • an awareness of the various scholarly approaches to the material and the factors informing them

Preliminary Reading

  • Bede, A History of the English Church and People (Penguin Classics / any edition)
  • H.Mayr-Harting, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (London, 1987)
  • J.Campbell (ed.), The Anglo-Saxons (London, 1982/1991)
  • J.Hawkes, The Golden Age of Northumbria (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1996)
  • D.M.Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Art from the Seventh Century (London, 1984)
  • L.Webster & J.Backhouse (eds), The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon art and culture AD 600-900 (London, 1991)
  • R.N. Bailey, Englands Earliest Sculptors (Toronto, 1996)
Ruthwell Cross in Ruthwell Church, Dumfriesshire

Module information

  • Module title
    Churches and High Crosses
  • Module number
    HOA00005M
  • Convenor
    Jane Hawkes

For postgraduates