Scheduled Monument

Ruthwell Cross, crossSM90256

Status: Removed


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Date Removed:
Local Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
NY 10059 68220
310059, 568220

Removal Reason

The Ruthwell Cross is within a securely curated environment and scheduling is not an appropriate mechanism to manage such an artefact.


The monument comprises the Anglian high cross with runic inscriptions displayed within Ruthwell Parish Church, together with a loose fragment of the cross-head and a fragment of another cross. The Ruthwell Cross was first scheduled in 1921, but is being re-scheduled now because no adequate documentation can be traced from the time of the original scheduling.

The Ruthwell Cross was created in the early 8th century, during a period when the kings of Northumbria extended their rule west into the lands on either side of the Solway Firth, enlarging their original territory which stretched from the Forth to the Humber. The cross functioned as a preaching cross, which once stood near to Ruthwell on the Solway shore. The cross survives today as one of the most beautiful and sophisticated monuments of early medieval Christianity.

Traditionally, the original site of the cross is said to have been at Priestside (NY 102 662), on the Solway shore. It was standing in the church or churchyard when it was thrown down and broken in about 1642. The broken fragments remained in the church until some time after 1772 when they were again removed to the churchyard. In 1802 the cross was erected in the manse garden. In 1823 the cross was reconstructed in its present form: the cross-head we see today is largely the work of this restoration. The cross was moved to its current location in 1887 when the apse in which it stands was specially built: it was accepted into guardianship at this time.

The carving is of extremely high quality and, although influenced by designs from further afield, it is most likely to have been the work of local sculptors. It probably stood in the open air, outside a church that probably formed part of a small monastery. Its coherent scheme of Christian images and Latin texts shows how the cross would have served as a theological reference work and as an aid to contemplation for those educated in the liturgy. Recent scholarship has focused on the fascinating question as to why this sophisticated monument was sited in a distant borderland, rather than at a great centre of Northumbrian monastic culture.

The two broader faces have scenes illustrating the divinity and power of Christ, along with representations of the Holy Trinity, and the symbols of the four Evangelists, all within a ladder-like frame. The two narrow side faces are carves with panels of vine-scroll ornament, inhabited with birds and beasts, representing the theme of Creation. These panels are surrounded by runic text of an Old English poem, ?The Dream of the Rood?, in which the cross itself describes the events of the Crucifixion.

The subject of the scheduling is the Ruthwell Cross and the footings holding it in position, situated within the purpose-built apse, of Ruthwell Church (the apse and church are not included in the scheduling).

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as the finest example in Scotland of the Anglo-Saxon Jarrow-Monkwearmouth school of sculpture. The cross is considered to be one of the outstanding monuments of the early church in western Europe, and as such has the potential to inform an understanding of social and religious structures, and of contemporary artistic expression.



RCAHMS records the monument as NY16NW4.


Cassidy B ed. 1992, THE RUTHWELL CROSS, Princeton University.

Hawkes J and Mills S eds. 1999, NORTHUMBRIA'S GOLDEN AGE, Stroud.



Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Ruthwell Cross

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About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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