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Rare Anglo-Saxon cross donated to Cambridge University museum

02 February 2018


Front and back views of the Trumpington Cross, found in Cambridge

Front and back views of the Trumpington Cross, found in Cambridge

AN EXTREMELY rare pectoral cross that dates from the earliest days of Anglo-Saxon Christianity is to go on display close where it was discovered seven years ago.

The Trumpington Cross, fashioned in gold and encrusted with garnets, was found on the skeleton of a teenage girl in a rare “bed burial”, where the corpse is laid on a real bed surrounded by personal effects (News, 30 March 2012).

The Anglo-Saxon word leger can mean either a bed or a grave. The cross, which had been stitched on to the chest of the girl’s burial costume, is only the fifth of its type to be found. It has been valued at about £80,000.

Its discovery, in 2011, on the site of a housing development at Trumpington Meadows, near Cambridge, attracted worldwide interest, and now the developers, Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, have donated it to Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The museum’s senior curator, Jody Joy, said: “The Trumpington Cross and other material recovered from the dig are of international quality and significance — but with the strongest connections to Cambridge and the surrounding settlements.

“Taking pride of place in our galleries, the cross will allow us to tell the story of the coming of Christianity to the region, and some of the history of this previously unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement, as well as the very early years of the English Church after St Augustine was dispatched to England by the Pope in 597 to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxon kings.”

The 3.5cm-diameter cross dates from between 650 and 680. Because the earliest Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity were from noble families, the teenager is believed to be of aristocratic or even royal status. Also in the grave were gold and garnet pins, an iron knife, glass beads, and a chain which would have hung off a belt.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the importance of this magnificent and mysterious cross is recognised locally, nationally, and internationally through research, exhibition, and publication,” Dr Joy said.

“The Trumpington Cross offers unique insights into the origins of English Christianity, and we feel very lucky to be able to put it on display just a few short miles away from where this beautiful artefact was discovered.”

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