Hogback stone, Lastingham Church

Just a month ago I visited Ana Cross and learnt that the original cross that stood there is now in the crypt at Lastingham church. By coincidence I was in Lastingham today after a pleasant walk across Spaunton Moor from Rosedale.

The church stands on the site of a monastery built in 654 AD by St. Cedd, Bishop of the East Saxons. The Venerable Bede, visiting in the next century, wrote “in accordance with the King’s wishes, Cedd chose a site for the monastery among high and remote hills, which seemed more suitable for the dens of robbers and haunts of wild beasts than for human habitation”. The site may well have been remote but that didn’t stop it being destroyed by marauding Danes at the end of the 8th century. In 1078 Stephen of Whitby re-founded the monastery but it lasted only eight years before being abandoned again with the monks moving to York, for reasons of raiding and local strife. It was during this period that the crypt was built.

Amongst the many interesting artefacts down in the crypt is a stone carved Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture called a hogback. Hogbacks are believed to be a type of grave marker that were fashionable in Northern England and Southern Scotland in the 10th to 12th centuries.  The theory is that they were “houses for the dead”, the belief arriving with Danish settlers. The hogback in Lastingham is I read sculpted in the form of a bear but it is very weathered.

 

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