And so it was time for the last stop of our holiday, the Ruthwell Cross, an 8th century Anglo-Saxon cross dating from the days when Ruthwell was part of the kingdom of Northumbria. It is remarkable for two main reasons: because it has inscriptions in both Latin and the runic alphabet, and because it was smashed by Presbyterian iconoclasts in 1664 and buried in the churchyard. Here it remained in pieces until Henry Duncan restored it in 1818.
The cross is particularly exciting as it is possibly the oldest surviving “text” of English poetry. It is also rumoured to feature both Christian and Pagan symbols (although this is hard to say, seeing as so much of Christianity borrows from Paganism anyway). In the visitor book, many draw attention to the presence of Huginn and Muninn (“thought” and “memory”), Odin’s ravens in Norse mythology. Whether these birds are, indeed, ravens will remain part of the cross’s great mystery!