Drawing 276: Gosforth Cross

Direction of view: WNW

Notes: This scene is pretty much unchanged since Wainwright’s day.  The only other place in his published works where it appears is on page 195 of The Outlying Fells.

Comments: I first visited Gosforth Cross on 24th February 1981 with Peter Messenger and Andrew Amos.

I visited this sketch location for the digital project on 21st June 2013 with Anne Setright and, with patience, we got a shot with the sun shining. I was tall enough to pull down a branch to supply leaves in the place shown on the sketch; Anne was not able to do the same trick for me!

This is the tallest Viking cross in England (fourteen feet tall), and a remarkable piece of work.  There is much information about the cross inside the church, together with two “hogsback” tombs, believed to date from the same period.

The cross is made of red sandstone. At the bottom it is round and undecorated, but about four feet from the ground a pattern begins, and the cross grows narrower and is cut into four faces.  Above, it tapers into a small wheelhead cross.  On the east side is a scene showing the crucifixion; above this is a carving of a man forcing open a dragon’s mouth with his foot – this illustrates the story of Valar the Silent, who was to avenge the death of Odin by forcing open the jaws of the dragon wolf.  This is an old Norse legend, so the cross presents Christian and pagan imagery side by side.