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The Viking Thorwald's Cross in the Isle of Man
The skilled art of stone carving at a Viking Festival reenactment in Peel on the Isle of Man
The skilled art of stone carving at a Viking Festival reenactment in Peel

Thorwald's Cross is a solid and ever- lasting reminder of one of the biggest changes in history.

The carving on this Viking stone depicts one of the most significant religious transitions in our history.

It tells of a time when society existed on the cusp of paganism and the final embrace of Christianity.

It was a time of uncertainty and conflict as outside influences were brought to the Island by wealthy traders and other travellers.

The Vikings brought pagan religion to shores already believing in Christianity and for a short time, both creeds co-existed.

But eventually, Christianity won.

A fight against evil

One side of this stone shows the Norse god Odin being devoured by Fenris the wolf at the Battle of Ragnorok - the fight against evil and the end of the world for the Norse deities.

The other side is filled with Christian symbolism - a figure with a book and a cross, by a fish and a defeated serpent.

An insight into Viking people

The skilled art of stone carving at a Viking Festival reenactment in Peel on the Isle of Man
A Viking Festival reenactment is held on the Isle of Man every year

Field Archaeologist for Manx National Heritage, Andy Johnson said Thorwald's Cross is one of around 200 crosses found on the Island which date from the Medieval period.

"What is really unusual about this stone is that it mixes pagan and Christian iconography in a way which hasn't been found on any of the other crosses.

"It is also an historical document because it has a runic inscription which gives us an insight into people of the time.

Rare inscription

This stone is not only a "page-turn" from pagan to Christian beliefs, it also has that rarest of things - the name of the person responsible.

Andy Johnson said, "Down one side of the stone is written in ancient Norse runes the inscription 'Thorwald raised this cross'.

Carving one of these crosses cannot have been cheap.
Field Archaeologist for Manx National Heritage, Andy Johnson

"The people putting up crosses like this must have been well-to-do, possibly traders who had travelled and been influenced by outside people and beliefs.

"They would have also had a fair amount of disposable income because carving one of these crosses cannot have been cheap.

"You would have needed enough money to find a carver who was literate and skilled. This would have been quite expensive in Viking terms and not something everyone could have done".

The original Thorwald's Cross is to be found in Andreas Church in the North of the Island and a replica is on display at the Manx Museum in Douglas.




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