What is a cross slab?

'Cross slab' is a generic, but generally accepted, term for a class of medieval grave marker that is most often stone, non-effigial, and has a cross as it's central motif. However, within that broad definition, there is remarkable variation. Some 'cross slabs' would more properly be called 'grave slabs' as they are clearly part of the same carving tradition, but do not bear a central cross--instead being plain or replaced with another symbol or abstract motif. While most cross slabs are recumbent, in that they laid over the body being buried, some were standing markers, either used on their own or in conjunction with a recumbent slab. Stylistically, there is also enormous variation in the cross designs themselves, which changed considerably over time, and according to regional traditions. Some cross slabs also bear secondary emblems which indicate some aspect of the identity of the deceased, some have inscriptions, or heraldry, or even attempts at crude effigial representation, while others only have the cross.

Cross slabs were primarily in use from the 11th to the 16th centuries, although their frequency and distribution varies significantly over time and space. In some areas of the country, particularly in the south and east, they went out of use by the 14th century, while in other areas, as in northern England, they remained in common use throughout the later Middle Ages, and in some cases continued into the post-Reformation era. The ubiquity of these monuments in the north, and their importance to understanding medieval commemorative practice as a whole, but also its regional variations, is one of the key reasons for the geographic focus of this project.

Images of cross slabs coming soon!