The Newgate Cross Shaft

901AD - 970AD

The Newgate Cross Shaft was found in 1963 in Newgate in the centre of York. Today only a part of what was once a large stone cross survives, but it still plays an important part in the exciting story of cultural intermingling between Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians in Viking York. 

All the way around the top the stone is decorated with angels and underneath is a very weathered image of Christ with a halo. These kinds of Christian religious motifs are often found on Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture and might be expected on a cross. It is presumed that the cross acted as a centre for worship and prayer, perhaps in place of a parish church.

More surprising are some the other decorations on the stone. Opposite Christ is a picture of a bird in profile. On the remaining sides two beasts are depicted in an interlocking pattern the one biting the other’s tail, and two serpents also interlaced in a near-symmetrical pattern, both biting themselves. 

Though birds and serpents are do appear in Christian contexts, the interlocking beasts of the Newgate Stone carry pagan connotations traditionally associated with Vikings. Serpents, dragons and other beasts are common decorative elements in Viking art. They might have their origin in figures from Old Norse Mythology such as the Midgard Serpent.

Furthermore, the general design and execution of the Newgate stone’s decorations bear resemblance to the Scandinavian art styles of the Viking period. This makes the Newgate Cross Shaft an important example of Anglo-Scandinavian stone sculpture – stone sculpture mixing Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian motives and styles. 


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