A hand-carved reconstruction of an Early Christian cross has been unveiled in the Scottish village of Aberlady to mark the medieval pilgrimage route used by the monks of Iona and Lindisfarne.
The pilgrimage route of ‘St Aidan’s Way’ – marks the culmination of an extensive and ambitious heritage project begun in 2007. Original research, archaeological surveys of four sites, the carving of the Aberlady Cross reconstruction and the development of interpretive panels, information leaflets and teaching materials has been carried out by the Aberlady Conservation and History Society.
Ruth Parsons, Chief Executive of Historic Scotland, said, “The incredible work done by the Aberlady Conservation and History Society has brought previously unknown history to light. It has added to our understanding of a period in history little understood even by those who know most about it.
“This fabulous cross reconstruction, carved using the same methods employed 1300 years ago when the original was made, takes us back to a time before Scotland was formed. It is, quite simply, unique. Hopefully, it will stand for centuries.”
Ruth Currie of East Lothian Council, added “The unveiling of the Aberlady Cross provides us all with the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the significance of East Lothian’s heritage stretching back over many centuries. This important heritage project has been driven by the enthusiasm of the local community making the connection between the present and the past in an accessible and meaningful way. East Lothian Council particularly welcomes the support of the wide range of partners whose involvement has made this project possible. It is one of many examples of the ways in which local communities in East Lothian are inspired by the rich and varied heritage of our county.”
In 1863, a fragment of an early Christian cross was found in a garden wall adjacent to Aberlady kirkyard. Research highlights its importance to our understanding of not only the origins and early history of Aberlady, but of the evolution of the early Christian church in these islands also.
The carved designs are strikingly similar to the illuminated artwork within the eighth-century Lindisfarne Gospels, which was made in c.715 AD by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who belended native Celtic elements with Germanic and eastern traditions. The result is a unified artistic vision of the cultural melting pot of Northumbria, of which Aberlady was then part.
The cross fragment at Aberlady suggests that the settlement was of some significance, perhaps a major monastic foundation of Lindisfarne on the northern frontier of Northumbria. This is supported by evidence of the largest collection of stray Anglo-Saxon metallic objects yet discovered in Scotland, and an extensively used pilgrimage route between the powerful monasteries of Iona and Lindisfarne. Along this Lammermuirs route place names testify to the influence of Gaelic monks from Iona.
Source: East Lothian Council