The Ruthwell Cross

Peter Papadopoulos
INT 296B
Dr. Driver/Dr. Meyer

The Ruthwell Cross is a late seventh or early eighth century sculpted "preaching" cross. It can currently be found in the town of Ruthwell, near Dumfries in southern Scotland. Standing about 17 feet tall, the cross is adorned with Latin and Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions and carvings. The cross, almost thirteen centuries old, has as much history as one would expect for an artifact of this age.

The Ruthwell Cross was partially dismantled most likely during 1642 at the order of the Church of Scotland General Assembly. The General Assembly was looking to rid Scotland of items of Roman worship. Believed to be connected with Roman worship, the cross was dismantled and spread out on the grounds of a small church in Ruthwell. Its pieces, which were large in size, were used as paving in some parts of the church grounds. In the early 1800's the pieces were located and the cross was reconstructed at the order of Reverend Doctor Henry Duncan. Although most of the cross was found and pieced together, Duncan had to construct a new crossbeam for the cross.

The significance of the cross lies in its inscriptions and carvings. Some of the carvings on the cross are said to symbolize passages from the New Testament. Portions of the Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions have been determined to be passages from one of the most recognized Old English religious poems, "The Dream of the Rood." There is some controversy surrounding this poem, as its author and date of creation remain unknown to this day. Some historians believe it was written by the famous poet Caedmon; however, there is no proof that it is his work.

In conclusion, the Ruthwell Cross has a detailed and important history behind. Its runic inscriptions and carvings give us insight into what the culture was like in those times. The Ruthwell Cross is an important piece of history and is recognized as such in the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882, under which it is protected.

Works Cited, consulted on September 20, 2000., consulted on September 17, 2000., consulted on September 17, 2000., consulted on September 16, 2000.

"The Dream of the Rood." Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams et. 7th Edition, Volume 1. New York: Norton, 2000. 26-28

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