The Gosforth Cross stands in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Gosforth, and was carved around 940. At 4 metres high it is the tallest Viking cross in England and second in importance to the Bewcastle Cross.
It is unique among English Viking crosses, not only in size and complete survival, but in the quality and detail of its carving. Formerly part of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was settled by Scandinavians sometime in the 9th or 10th centuries.
The cross is known for its combination of Christian symbols with characters and scenes from Norse mythology, and is a tangible piece of evidence of the impact of the Christianisation of the Viking World. The rounded lower part of the Cross represents the ash tree Yggdrasil which the Norse men believed supported the universe, whilst the square upper portion is capped on each side with the triquetra, the symbol of the Trinity.
Two 10th century ‘Hogback’ tombstones inside the church cover the graves of Norse Chieftains and are shaped as houses of the dead, and are carved with battle scenes.
Other Norse crosses found in the county of Cumbria are located at Muncaster, Brigham, Dearham, Aspatria, Gilcrux, Bromfield, Rockcliffe, Penrith and Kirkby Stephen, but the Gosforth Cross is the best example.