Ian Malcolm of Aberlady Conservation and History Society recently sent me a leaflet about the stunning reconstruction of Aberlady’s Anglo-Saxon cross. Only one fragment of the original monument has survived, having been discovered in a garden wall beside the parish church in 1863. The fragment is carved on all four sides in typical Northumbrian style, with scroll-work, intertwined beasts and an angel among the notable features. Indeed, it is so similar to three fragments of a cross from nearby Abercorn that both crosses are likely to be the work of the same craftsman. One particular point of interest at Aberlady is a quartet of seabirds whose intertwined legs form a geometric knotwork pattern: a strikingly similar image is found in the early 8th-century Lindisfarne Gospels which are contemporary with the Aberlady and Abercorn crosses.
Even with only one surviving fragment it has been possible to recreate how the original Aberlady Cross would have looked. By reference to the Abercorn designs and to those on the magnificent Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses a reconstruction drawing was made. This was turned into a full-size replica by master stonemason Barry Grove, whose reconstruction of the Pictish cross-slab at Hilton of Cadboll can be seen via one of the links at the end of this post. The replica of the Aberlady Cross can be seen in the Memorial Garden next to the church.
I intend to visit Aberlady as soon as possible, to see the replica and to explore the area’s early medieval history. It is likely that the parish church stands on the site of a major Anglo-Saxon monastery, perhaps a daughter-house of Abercorn which was the base of Northumbria’s short-lived ‘bishopric of the Picts’. Having a keen interest in the North Britons I’m curious to know how Aberlady relates to the old native kingdom of Gododdin which once held sway along the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. Ian tells me that the Society has produced a leaflet for ‘St Aidan’s Way’, the Aberlady to Lindisfarne stretch of the pilgrimage route from Iona. Other projects are in the pipeline, so watch this space … or visit the Society’s website … or drop by Aberlady and see how things are going.
Dave Berry’s blogpost about the unveiling of the replica cross at Aberlady on 6 December 2011
Barry Grove’s reconstruction of Hilton of Cadboll (on the cover of Iain Forbes’ book on the Pictish stones)
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