Saxon Cross Shaft
The cross shaft is the oldest man-made object in Wolverhampton. The carvings on it are zoomorphic and consist of bird and animal forms of typical Saxon design. The cross is believed to have Christian origins, and would have been there when Lady Wulfruna built her church on the hill of Heantun.
In 1949, excavation at the base of the cross revealed a circle of large, roughish stones which seemed to form steps. These must have served as the original base on which the cross stood: its original height would therefore have been greater than the 4.2m that can be seen today. With the cross portion, which has long since disappeared, the whole monument would probably have stood some 7.5m high.
Today, the Saxon cross is slowly being eroded by rain and atmospheric pollution. This problem was recognised as far back as the 1870s, when a plaster cast was made of the decoration before it could be damaged further. This is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
It has been suggested that the cross shaft was originally a column pillaged from the forum at Viroconium (Wroxeter), the old Roman town near Telford. The Saxons then carved the designs upon it. Certainly its dimensions are identical with the pillars found at Viroconium, but whether it actually comes from there is open to debate. Nationally, there are less than one hundred of these cross shafts, with some of the finest examples being found in Cumbria, Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Related works : There is a plaster cast of this work in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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