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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin

Ruthwell Cross
by Joyce Polanski

The Ruthwell Cross is within the Parish Kirk of Ruthwell in Dumfries-shire and is protected by the Ancient Monuments Act.  Plaster casts of the cross have been made and set up in museums in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.

The cross is the oldest and most interesting monument of its kind in Britain, with beautiful vine tracery, noble sculptured panels and runic text. It was of far-reaching importance - a preaching cross which never ceased to declare its message; it marked an epoch in the history of the early Christian Church.  It is the only document of its kind, in which the message, going back for 1200 years, can be clearly read today.
It is a sermon in stone, a preaching cross.  The main features in the sculpture include:
the preaching of John the Baptist,
the Visitation
the Annunciation,
the woman washing Christ's feet,
the healing of the man born blind,
the Crucifiction, and
the writing of the Gospel story

All of it is so vivid and picturesque that "he who runs may read".

Antiquarians have been puzzled to know how a country which had emerged from a rude and unlettered state could produce a work of such high artistic merit , so noble and skilful in conception and so devotional in treatment, but with the Christian faith came Christian art - set up in the latter part of the seventh century.

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