Churches are great for finding the unusual. The church at Ampney Crucis in the heart of the Cotswolds is no exception. It is unusually dedicated to The Holy Rood, and Saxon features can still be seen in the modern building. The churchyard was even recorded in the Domesday Book as "Omenie Holy Rood". Incongruously located outside the main entrance to the castellated church, sheltered by a huge tree, is the finest Mediaeval cross in the country.
The cross is four metres tall and stands atop a worn, stepped stone base. The crosshead (one metre in height) is gabled and decorated with various carvings. The E face depicts the Crucifixion, and the W face shows the Madonna holding a child. The N and S faces are open to speculation. According to the church, they show Robert Fitz-Warren (a previous lord of the manor), and St. Lawrence respectively. It is dated to circa 1415.
It is something of a miracle that this has survived to the present day. This feat was made possible by the fact that the cross head was hidden in the rood loft at some point in its past, possibly by locals wishing to save it from destruction at the hands of Puritans. It was discovered again in 1840, and restored to its present location by Canon Howman of Barnsley some twenty years later.
The Ampneys are a collection of charming Cotswold villages which are steeped in historic religous iconography including a forteenth century cross and fifteenth century fertility carving at Ampney St. Peter, and Mediaeval wall paintings at Ampney St. Mary. To my mind, these artefacts are as impressive as the great megalithic structures and the wells also featured on these pages. Go and take a look at them before they disappear into a museum, or worse still, disappear all together like the Mediaeval frescos that once adorned the walls in this church. While you are their take a squint at the fine gargoyles on the tower - superb!
|SP 082 016 (163).|
|Ampney Crucis, 3 miles E of Cirencester.|
|Heading E on the A417 from Cirencester to Lechlade, turn left at the Crown and Crucis Hotel for Ampney Crucis village. Just over the narrow humpback bridge is a left turn leading to the church where there is limited parking. The cross is in the churchyard.|