Name/TitleCross with scenes from Christianity and Norse mythology, St Mary's Church, Cumbria, Gosforth Cross
About this objectFormerly part of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area where this cross was found had been settled by Scandinavians some time in either the 9th or 10th century when they were largely Christian. Many of the settlers probably came from Ireland. The assimilation of the Norse and Christian gods and stories and the challenges of interpretation are exemplified in this sandstone cross, possibly a copy of a wooden cross, and one of several in the vicinity.
The four sides of the cross have carved scenes including, on the east side, one generally identified as Christ's crucifixion in a style common in Ireland but with continental influences, indicating the links between Christian communities across northwestern Europe. While some scholars have also interpreted the other scenes as Christian, most see them as from traditional Norse mythology as described in the Poetic Edda, a collection of narrative poems. For example, Odin/Woden is shown on horseback on the west side. Below him are two figures, the lower one interpreted as Loki, bound by the guts of his son. Above him is his wife, Sigyn, with a long plait and holding a bowl to catch the venom of a snake placed there by another goddess before it drips on Loki.
Subject and Association KeywordsEncounters
Subject and Association KeywordsCrosses
Subject and Association DescriptionLearn More: Bailey 2003; Berg 1958; Cumbrian crosses
Medium and MaterialsSandstone
Object numberEXH41: Gosforth Cross