Thousands of crosses can be found carved into the walls and surfaces of Canterbury Cathedral. They are usually small in size, but range in design from the most basic cross to some which are very ornate and detailed.
Many of these crosses represent literal prayers etched into the walls of the building. Carving a cross was one way for pilgrims to actively engage with the space in a physical act of devotion.
Where are they located in the Eastern Crypt?
A large number of crosses can be found throughout the Eastern and Western Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.
Crosses are sometimes connected with other pieces of graffiti. For example, in the Eastern Crypt there are at least two examples of a cross carved beside a Christogram. There is also evidence of small crosses around some of the larger figurative graffiti scenes. Were these crosses a reaction to the larger graffiti or something else, perhaps a former wall painting?
Can we date them?
It is very difficult to date these marks, but undoubtedly a number of them are medieval.
Who carved them?
Some of these crosses were probably carved by medieval pilgrims visiting the tomb of St Thomas Becket during the early years of the cult – a kind of votive offering to the martyr (Mesiano 2020).
Mesiano, P. 2020. Medieval Graffiti in Canterbury Cathedral: A Local Experience of Becket’s Cult. Available online at: https://www.balh.org.uk/blog-medieval-graffiti-in-canterbury-cathedral-a-local-experience-of-becket-s-cult-2020-12-23