Ancient Preaching Cross for St Helen’s Church

The ancient preaching cross that we will be erecting in the graveyard at St Helen's.

The ancient preaching cross that we will be erecting in the graveyard at St Helen’s.

Hidden away in our collections is an ancient, possibly 14th century, preaching cross. Its age is given away by how eroded the granite it is made from is. The pink colour of the granite, also suggests that the cross came from Cornwall, where there are similar, still standing examples.

The original site of St Helen’s in Eston, Middlesbrough had been place of worship since at least the Saxon era, when there was an associated manor house. It could even have had earlier origins, as there is a theory that Medieval churches dedicated to St Helen, were often the previous location of sacred springs that were attributed to the Celtic water sprite ‘Elen’.  As was the case with St Helen’s, churches were often built by the conquering Normans (the chancel of St Helen’s is Norman) on Saxon holy sites. Parish church were then rebuilt continuously as congregations grew (this happened St Helen’s in the 17th and early 19th centuries). However, Saxon and Medieval preaching crosses were often retained or collected from elsewhere – sometimes, later antiquarians would reposition the crosses on plinths or move them inside of the church itself to be protected as an ancient religious curiosity.

Allegedly, St Helen’s had a preaching cross. We plan to re-erect our preaching cross on the south side of the church (which was conventionally where they were located).

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