Some Fine Antiquities on the Jubilee Holiday

We decided to mark the Jubilee holiday by getting away from the crowds and visiting some fine places whose interest goes back a lot further than 60 years.

We set off and headed north to Bewcastle, a tiny village about 20 miles north-east of Carlisle which is entirely unremarkable except for one thing: in the church yard in the Bewcastle Cross, an Anglo-Saxon cross. This cross and the Ruthwell Cross (which we visited a few weeks ago) are the best surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon sculpture in Europe, both dating from the 7th century. Like its cousin at Ruthwell, the cross has ornate carvings, biblical scenes and runic inscriptions, although their meanings are less clear.

The cross stands 14 feet high in the church yard
The biblical scenes are on the west face only and include St John the Baptist, Christ treading on the beasts (vide Psalm 91) and a third which is probably St John the Evangelist.
Christ treading on the beasts
The other three faces show vine scrolls and knots as well as various animals and birds.
The cross is believed to be still in its original spot

We left Bewcastle and headed south to Hadrian's Wall which was built by the Roman Emporer to keep out "the barbarians" to the north. The weather was poor so we didn't stop too long, making a note to return on a better day to fully explore. There are several places where the wall is well preserved and we took the near perfectly straight road from Birdoswald south west to Banks. At Birdoswald are the remains of a Roman fort and from here the wall runs immediately alongside the road for a couple of miles.

Finally we stopped at Lanercost Priory, the substantial ruins of an Augustinian settlement dating from the 12th century.
The Priory is still mostly intact

Despite the rain (it was a bank holiday, after all) we enjoyed wandering around the priory and imagining what it might have felt like to have lived here at the time it was built. Remote and on the moors close to the Scottish border, the priory suffered frequent attacks during the Anglo-Scottish wars. After dissolution by Henry VIII in  the 16th century part of the building fell into ruin although the original nave became the parish church and is still in use.
Looking south across the transept


Looking towards the original sanctuary

The ruins include a fortified pele tower

After coffee and a cake we set off for the M6 and the journey home, reflecting on the sheer age of what we had seen today. A 1400 year old cross, a 1900 year old fort and wall, an 850 year old priory. Sixty years? It's just a blip!