Welcome to the blog of the Gloucestershire cross-slab survey. Cross-slabs are a class of medieval stone grave markers which are decorated with a cross motif; they are most commonly found at churches and monastic sites, although some are held in museums. The survey aims to record all surviving medieval cross-slabs across Gloucestershire, compile a gazetteer database, and publish a corpus of Gloucestershire cross-slabs.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Ampney St Mary

St Mary's church, Ampney St Mary

On the way back from Eastleach we stopped off at one of my favourite Gloucestershire churches: Ampney St Mary. The village of Ampney St Mary moved after the Black Death to Ashbrook, but the church remained, and is a real gem in a surprisingly peaceful location, despite the A road nearby. 

Blocked north door, with the Lion of Righteousness triumphing over the agents of evil

External buttresses hold back the alarmingly leaning walls of the 12th century nave; externally it has a wonderful carving of the Lion of Righteousness triumphing over the agents of evil on the lintel of the blocked north door, but it is inside that the real treasures lie in a series of wall paintings dating from c1300 to the 17th century.

Wall paintings dating from the early 14th century to 16th century

There are however also medieval cross-slabs: in the porch is a niche of about 1500, the two jambs made from a single cross-slab of the 13th or 14th century, which has been split down the middle. The decoration is of an incised straight-arm cross, with rather clumsy foliate terminals, set within a ring or nimbus.

A single cross-slab was split in two to be re-used as the jambs of this niche in the porch; the depth of the cross-slab can be clearly seen
View of cross-slab re-used in niche, the slab was plit down the centre to form the two jambs. Is it just chance that the cross-head was so visibly displayed like this?

On the south door, within the porch are several graffiti, including a compass-scribed pattern. 

Compass-scribed graffito on the south doorway, note other graffiti above and on the door
Graffito on south doorway
The step to the south doorway is also a cross-slab: a small, worn slab, probably cut down on one side, and decorated with an incised straight-armed cross within a ring or nimbus; the foliate cross terminals are almost thistle shaped. 

Re-used incised cross-slab in step to south doorway

The final cross-slab has been re-used as the lintel on the priest's door into the chancel south side. The slab is carved with flowing foliate decoration in bas relief, and is reminiscent of a slab at Bisley church, and also one from Cirencester Abbey which is on display in the Corinium Museum.

Ornately carved cross-slab re-used as lintel of priest's door

All these slabs will need a return visit to carry out a full record, and there are plenty of early ledger stones and graffiti to look at as well.

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