Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Vanishing England.
high, and the lowest portion of the shaft sunk into it, and measuring 1 ft. 1 in. square by 101/2 in. high.  Careful excavation showed that the stone is probably still standing on its original site."[48]
“There is in the same parish, where there are four cross-roads, a place known as ‘The White Cross.’  Not a vestige of a stone remains.  But on a slight mound at the crossing stands a venerable oak, now dying.  In Monmouthshire oaks have often been so planted on the sites of crosses; and in some cases the bases of the crosses still remain.  There are in that county about thirty sites of such crosses, and in seventeen some stones still exist; and probably there are many more unknown to the antiquary, but hidden away in corners of old paths, and in field-ways, and in ditches that used to serve as roads.  A question of great interest arises.  What were the origin and use of these wayside crosses? and why were so many of them, especially at cross-roads, known as ’The White Cross’?  At Abergavenny a cross stood at cross-roads.  There is a White Cross Street in London and one in Monmouth, where a cross stood.  Were these planted by the White Cross Knights (the Knights of Malta, or of S. John of Jerusalem)?  Or are they the work of the Carmelite, or White, Friars?  There is good authority for the general idea that they were often used as preaching stations, or as praying stations, as is so frequently the case in Brittany.  But did they at cross-roads in any way serve the purpose of the modern sign-post?  They are certainly of very early origin.  The author of Ecclesiastical Polity says that the erection of wayside crosses was a very ancient practice.  Chrysostom says that they were common in his time.  Eusebius says that their building was begun by Constantine the Great to eradicate paganism.  Juvenal states that a shapeless post, with a marble head of Mercury on it, was erected at cross-roads to point out the way; and Eusebius says that wherever Constantine found a statue of Bivialia (the Roman goddess who delivered from straying from the path), or of Mercurius Triceps (who served the same kind purpose for the Greeks), he pulled it down and had a cross placed upon the site.  If, then, these cross-road crosses of later medieval times also had something to do with directions for the way, another source of the designation ‘White Cross’ is by no means to be laughed out of court, viz. that they were whitewashed, and thus more prominent objects by day, and especially by night.  It is quite certain that many of them were whitewashed, for the remains of this may still be seen on them.  And the use of whitewash or plaister was far more usual in England than is generally known.  There is no doubt that the whole of the outside of the abbey church of St. Albans, and of White Castle, from top to base, were coated with whitewash."[49]

  [48] Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, by Henry
  Taylor, F.S.A.

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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