Ruthwell Cross - Destruction and Restoration

Destruction and Restoration

It escaped injury at the time of general destruction during the Reformation in the sixteenth century, but in 1662 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ordered the "many idolatrous monuments erected and made for religious worship" to be "taken down, demolished, and destroyed." It was not till two years later, however, that the cross was taken down when an Act was passed "anent the Idolatrous Monuments in Ruthwell." The usual account is that the cross was taken down in the church or churchyard soon after the 1642 order and broken up. It was used, it appears, as a bench to sit upon. The pieces were later removed from the church and left out in the churchyard. In 1818, Henry Duncan collected all the pieces he could find, and put them together, adding two new crossbeams (the original ones were lost), and having gaps filled in with small pieces of stone.

Duncan's restoration is questionable. He was convinced that he was reconstructing a "Popish" (Roman Catholic) monument, and based his work on "drawings of similar Popish relics." Duncan dismissed the rare early medieval motif of Paul and Anthony breaking bread in the desert as probably "founded on some Popish tradition."

It has been suggested that the work was not in fact originally a cross. In a 2007 journal article, Patrick W. Conner, a professor of English, wrote that he will not call the structure a cross: "Fred Orton has argued persuasively that the lower stone on which the runic poem is found may, indeed, never have belonged to a standing cross, or if it did, that cannot be asserted with confidence now. For that reason, I shall refer throughout to the Ruthwell Monument in preference to the Ruthwell cross."

In his 1998 essay, “Rethinking the Ruthwell Monument: Fragments and Critique; Tradition and History; Tongues and Sockets,” scholar Fred Orton discusses a note Reginald Bainbrigg wrote to William Camden in 1600 for possible publication in any new edition of his 1586 Britannia: “Bainbrigg saw a ‘column’ which he referred to as a ‘cross,’” Orton said of the note. Orton is also convinced the piece is made of two different types of stone: “… it seems to make more sense to see the Ruthwell monument as originally a column … amended with the addition of a Crucifixion scene, and then … further amended with the addition of a cross made of a different kind of stone."

Read more about this topic:  Ruthwell Cross

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