Article

High Crosses

Catherine E. Karkov

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online June 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0070
High Crosses

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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High crosses are freestanding stone sculptures that are a feature of early medieval art in England, Ireland, Scotland, and, to a lesser extent, Wales. They are distinct from cross slabs, which are shaped slabs decorated with relief carvings of crosses and sometimes other types of decoration on one or both sides. The exact origins of the high cross are controversial. Much debate continues concerning in which area they were developed first. In terms of their form, the influence of prehistoric insular standing stones, the Jupiter and victory columns of the Roman world, and Early Christian processional crosses all have been cited. Surviving monuments suggest that high crosses first appeared in the 8th century and that their popularity varied both regionally and chronologically. In England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales they tended to disappear after the 10th or early 11th century, while in Ireland they remained popular well into the later Middle Ages. They also vary greatly in size (some are no more than a meter high, while others rise to 5 meters or more) and in decorative programs. In England and Scotland, for example, the earlier crosses are generally the most complex, but that is not the case in Ireland. (Note that high crosses are also discussed in the Oxford Bibliographies article Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture; see that article for general bibliographies as well.)

Article.  14552 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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