Corpus Refs:Macalister/1949:1070
RCAHMS/1982:No. 6 (83)
Discovery:recognised, 1929 Macalister, R.A.S.
History:RCAHMS/1982, 204: `Excavation in 1963 established that the base extends down to an old land-surface at a depth of about 0.8m, where it stands at the E edge of an infilled pit of uncertain origin...[There is no evidence] that St Martin's Cross has ever been removed from its socket...a thick growth of lichen was removed shortly before 1860. The cross was again cleaned in 1973 to allow geological identification and to facilitate photography in connection with [the RCAHMS] survey'.

Geology:RCAHMS/1982, 205: `Carved from a single block of grey epidiorite of Dalradian age, probably imported from the `green beds' of the Argyll mainland.'
Dimensions:4.3 x 1.19 x 0.26 (RCAHMS/1982)
Setting:in ground
21m W of the SW angle of the nave of the Abbey church

RCAHMS/1982, 41: `apparently in situ'.

Form:Cramp sh. A, head 11a, r1
RCAHMS/1982, 205: `It measures 4.3m in height, excluding a tenoned butt of unknown length concealed in the cross-socket, by 0.67m in width at the base, tapering to 0.55m at the cross-head, and is 0.26m in maximum thickness tapering to 0.20m at the apex. The height to the underside of the cross-head is 2.82m, the overall diameter of the pierced ring is 1.09m, and the diameter of the semicircular armpits is about 0.24m. Whereas the top arm extends 0.56m beyond the ring, the projection of the side-arms is only about 0.09m, giving an overall span of 1.19m. The outlines of the cross-arms exhibit a concave curve, very slight in comparison with that of St John's Cross.

In the ends of the side-arms there are vertical slots 0.06m in width and depth, open at the top and measuring 0.37m in height. It has frequently been assumed that these were mortices for wooden extension-pieces designed to improve the proportions of the cross-head, but the slots seem inadequate to secure extensions of any length...The design of the cross-head is complete, for the angle-mouldings of each face return along the ends of the arms. Moreover, the limited projection of the side-arms is a common feature of Irish crosses... An alternative explanation for the slots is that they were housings for decorative panels, perhaps of wood plated with metal, applied to the outer ends of the arms, where many Irish crosses bore carving.

All of the relief-ornament is contained within the overall thickness of the cross, except for the five large bosses of the E face whose maximum projection is 82mm'.

RCAHMS/1982, 205: `Carved from a single block of grey epidiorite of Dalradian age, probably imported from the `green beds' of the Argyll mainland. This material is particularly intractable, and did not permit the precise setting-out or delicate carving detail seen on St John's cross'.

RCAHMS/1982, 214: `[The cross] stands in a massive base of Ross of Mull granite of rectangular plan' (1.35m x 1.42m x 0.75m above present ground level + 0.8m below ground level).

Condition:complete , poor
RCAHMS/1982, 204--207: `The best preserved of the Early Christian crosses of Iona, [but]...weathering has obliterated any original surface detail'.
Folklore:RCAHMS/1984, 204, notes that the name `St Martin's Cross' is first recorded in 1699: `there is no reason to doubt that it is an authentic medieval designation. Indeed, in view of the high reputation of St Martin of Tours in the early Irish church, attested by his commemmoration in the liturgy at Iona in the time of Columba, his name may have been associated with cross from the time of its erection'.

RCAHMS/1982, 205: `The angles of the cross are wrought with flattened roll-mouldings...On the E face the mouldings were not continued below the decorated field, leaving a blank panel 0.58m in height at the foot of the shaft, whereas the panel of similar height on the W face, which formerly bore an inscription, was framed at the sides to within a few centimetres of the base'.

E face decorated with snake boss ornament, W face with figures, some Biblical, animal and a snake-boss.

For a detailed description and discussion of ornament, see RCAHMS/1982, 205--208.



IONAA/2/1     Pictures


A prayer for Gillacrist (PN) who made the cross [CISP].
Macalister/1949 192 reading only


Position:W ; broad ; n/a ; panel
Date:737 - 799 (RCAHMS/1982)
Language:Goidelic (rbook)
Ling. Notes:Macalister/1949, 192: `I should have expected chroisse at the end, but the above is what I seemed to see'.
Palaeography:Macalister/1949, 192, does not mention the script on the cross, but his inclusion of this stone in volume two, indicates a `book-hand'.
Macalister/1949, 192: `On a panel on the base [of the shaft] of St Martin's Cross, 1'6" high x 1' 8 and three quarters inches across, I thought I detected traces of a much defaced inscription...I record the observation for what it may be worth, but admit that it needs confirmation'.

RCAHMS/1982, 206: `On the W face, the panel at the foot of the shaft has evidently borne an inscription, and traces of lettering can be distinguished in a favourable light. There is, however, no evidence to support the reading by Macalister, containing the name Gillacrist which led him to suggest an 11th-century date for the cross'.

Carving errors: