ANGLO- SAXON AND VIKING STONE SCULPTURE
Early Anglo-Saxon sculpture
Such crosses would only appear singly or in pairs and might form a focus for the layout of the churchyard. This seems to be the case at Addingham where an excavation revealed that the Anglo-Saxon burials were not in straight rows but fanned out from a central focal point. This may have been a large courtyard cross though no trace of it now remains.
In a few places, such as Dewsbury, Thornhill and Otley, there are larger collections of sculptured stones. This might suggest that such sites were monastic and that some of the sculpture is liturgical in nature rather than being memorials or places where the gospel was preached to the public.
Nowadays the designs can be difficult to pick out. Many of these fragments are from crosses like those at Ilkley which formerly stood in the open air and suffered erosion from wind and rain. Others like those at Dewsbury are fragments that have been sawn up and used as construction material in the walls of later medieval churches. The clarity of the images would not have been a problem for the Anglo-Saxons. Not only would the sculpture itself still have been crisp, but the surface of the stones would also have been limewashed and then painted. Each strand of the sculptured knotwork patterns would be picked out in a different colour making the design easier to follow. The faces of the evangelists and biblical characters would also be painted in so that an observer would be able to make out their expressions. At Dewsbury there may have been a further embellishment. The figures in the panels portraying scenes from the life of Christ have holes bored where their eyes should be. It seems possible that these were set with glass which would reflect light from their surroundings and which would give the illusion of being alive.Viking sculpture
After their conversion to Christianity the Vikings took up the idea of raising churchyard monuments. This was not something which they had done to any great extent in Scandinavia where there was no great tradition of erecting stone monuments. The one exception is on the Swedish island of Gotland where there are a number of stones carved with elaborate patterns and runic inscriptions, but these are different in character to Viking monuments in Britain.
Under Viking patronage the function of the crosses changed. More Viking sculpture can be seen to be funerary monuments than was the case in Saxon times. New forms of sculpture were also introduced including the hogback grave marker. This is a stone which was laid flat on the ground to mark the position of the burial. Many resemble houses or upturned boats with a ridged central spine (hence the name hogback). Others, such as those at Brompton on Swale (North Yorkshire) have large beasts resembling bears clutching both ends of the hogback.
The decorative style of the Viking sculpture is also different. Although many of the motifs remain the same others are introduced. There are still images of the saints as at Ilkley and Otley for example, but the Leeds cross also has a depiction of the Viking hero Wayland the Smith. The style in which they are carried out is also different. The figures are more flowing and the knotwork seems less regimentally symmetrical. Often it contains dragons and other creatures from Scandinavian myth.
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