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The Tunwinni Cross

The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was, through the expansionist policies of its kings, drawn to compete for power and land in Rheged; one (sixth century AD British) predecessor of the present county of Cumbria. Part of the significance of the Tunwinni Cross lies in the fact that it is an advertisement for English Northumbria. If you were a Briton, speaking no English, here was a statement in stone of who claimed control over your territory, beliefs and everyday life. Yet if we look closer, we can see all is not quite as it seems.


The runes on the cross do not fit the panel designed to take them. They cut the panel’s frame, and run between, and over, two figures carved beneath it – a feature drawn from early historic Irish Christian stone sculpture. Careful analysis of key parts of the runic inscription has demonstrated that names included in it has been over cut. It seems that the principal objective of this act was to disguise earlier names that link the inscription to the figures below the panel.

This allows us to suggest that these are two early Christian clerics – one named Luigne from the 7th century AD Ionan monastic community in western Scotland, the other, (originally from Tarsus in SE Turkey), considered to be Theodore, the 7th Archbishop of Canterbury (who died in 690 AD). Tunwinni is named on the top line of the inscription. His name is also an over cutting of that of another, who presumably did most of the work in creating this memorial to Theodore; Luibe. More than any other monument, the Tunwinni Cross reveals the ‘hidden landscape’ of Urswick to us. We can easily see water and stone. However, were it not for the chance survival and recovery of this remarkable monument, critical elements of very different 1300 year-old territories - of belief, power and control - would remain in complete darkness. For those who can see no relationship between past and present; the art and inscription on this cross fragment reminds us all of the delicate boundary separating our concerns from those of earlier communities.

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Much work was undertaken about The Tunwinni Cross; by W G Collingwood, he interpreted the runes on the cross as:-

 'This cross Tunwinni erected in memory of Torhtred a monument to his Lord pray for the [his] soul'