In the heart of Scotland, a fascinating relic from the 10th century has emerged, shimmering with renewed splendor. This Anglo Saxon silver cross, once a part of the renowned Galloway Hoard, has undergone meticulous restoration, revealing an exquisite piece of history that holds many secrets. Let’s embark on a journey to explore the intriguing tale of a cross believed to have belonged to a king.
The Galloway Hoard Discovery
The captivating story of this ancient cross begins with its discovery in 2014. The Galloway Hoard, a collection of Viking-era treasures, held this remarkable artifact in its grasp. Wrapped carefully in a parcel, the cross was buried around the year 900 AD. Over the centuries, it accumulated layers of dirt, concealing its true magnificence.
Dedicated conservators embarked on a mission to restore the cross to its former glory. Armed with a unique tool, a porcupine quill, they delicately removed the accumulated debris without leaving a mark on the treasure. As the layers of time faded away, the cross started to unveil its true beauty.
A Pectoral Ornament
The cross, a pectoral ornament, boasts intricate decorations using black niello and gold leaf, revealing the exquisite craftsmanship of the time. Niello, a compound of sulfur and silver, was skillfully used in its creation. Originating from old Northumbria, the cross was meant to be worn around the neck, as evidenced by an accompanying spiral chain.
Symbolism and Detail
The design on the cross is equally remarkable. It features symbols representing the New Testament gospel authors—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These symbols take the form of a man, a lion, a cow, and an eagle, respectively. The level of detail and workmanship on this cross is awe-inspiring, making it truly exceptional.
The Enigma of Burial
As experts ponder over the cross’s history, questions arise. Why was this remarkable artifact buried? Was it part of Viking plunder, stashed away for safekeeping? The answers remain elusive, offering a tantalizing mystery that leaves us in wonder.
The Galloway Hoard: A Treasure Trove
The Galloway Hoard, where this cross was discovered, is a collection of rare Viking-era objects, unparalleled in Britain and Ireland. It was divided into four parcels, each containing astonishing relics. The hoard’s resurrection occurred centuries later, thanks to the efforts of metal detectorist Derek McLennan.
The Battle Over Ownership
While the cross’s historical and artistic value is undeniable, a legal battle has brewed over its ownership. The Church of Scotland has claimed half of the hoard’s value due to its discovery on church land. A promise to share the proceeds, made by Derek McLennan, has sparked debates under Scottish law, making this a contentious issue.
Beyond Monetary Worth
This ancient cross symbolizes more than just its monetary value. It offers a glimpse into a time when Scotland and other nations were still taking shape. It hints at a deeper Viking involvement in the region, shedding light on the complex political and cultural landscape of the era.
Awaiting the Public Eye
National Museums Scotland plans to exhibit the Galloway Hoard to the public, an event provisionally set for February to May. Despite the potential challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, this extraordinary silver cross, with its rich history, has waited a millennium to captivate onlookers, and a few more months of waiting won’t diminish its allure.