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Whitby and its two most prominent stone crosses and their history.
At the top of the 199 steps and there are two stone crosses with historical interest to Whitby. The first one is the Caedmon Memorial which stands in front of St Mary’s church, overlooking the town and visible from the Westcliffe.
The memorial was unveiled by Mr. Q Alfred Austin the then Poet Laureate, on 21st September, 1898. The monument is in a form of an Anglican Cross, and so far as possible, embodies the Northumbrian ornament and general treatment of design at Caedmons time. The four read contemporary crosses of Bewcastle, Ruthwell, Rothbury, and Hexham were taken as the basis for the design, these being erected towards the end of the seventh century and without any slavish copying, it proved possible to embody the treatment and simplicity of the seventh century with what is unmistakably nineteenth century work.
The Cross is hewn of fine-grained, hard sandstone from the Black Pasture Quarry in Northumberland. Upon the front are carved panels of Christ in the act of blessing, of David playing the harp, of the Abbess Hild, and of Caedmon in the stable inspired to sing his great song. Beneath is the inscription to the Glory of God, and in memory of His Servant Caedmon, Fell asleep hard-by, A.D 680," On the Obverse side is carved a double vine, symbolical of Christ, and in the loops figures of the four great scholars trained at Whitby, under Abbess Hild, in Caedmons time, namely, Bosa, Aetla, Oftson, and John. Beneath are inscribed the first nine lines of Caedmon‘s Hymn of the Creation as preserved on the fly-leaf of the Moore Boeda in the Cambridge Museum.
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This was carefully rendered into English by the Anglo-Saxon Professors at Oxford and Cambridge. Runes of the same nine lines are also carved upon the border of one of the sides of the Cross, as is the case at Ruthwell, and the same inscription appears in Saxon Mimuscule on the border of the opposite side. The two sides of the Cross contain symbolical designs of much beauty.
The second cross can be found behind St Marys church what is now the car park in front of Whitby Abbey. This is one of the tallest crosses found in the district of Whitby but this original purpose of construction is not only understood.
A popular belief is that it belonged to the burial ground in connection with the Abbey, whilst some consider it was the market cross; but authorities differ in their opinions, and there are no data to assist in forming a conclusion but it is thought to date back to approximate the 14th century, and consists of a fluted shaft which is mounted on steps at the base. The actual top head of the cross has been warn and weathered as the picture shows.