Lanercost Priory & The Lanercost Cross
Lancercost Priory in Cumbria is another medieval place of worship with a long, notable and at times turbulent history.
1169 is the year generally accepted as being when Robert de Vaux founded this Augustinian Priory in memory of his father Hubert de Vaux who died in 1164.
Positioned close to Hadrian's Wall which provided a source of quality stone for building and near to the River Irthing which offered a good supply of fresh water, Lanercost Priory was constructed in a secluded yet highly practical place.
Its most notable points in history were in the early 14th century. The first was during the reign of King Edward I of England. For 5 months between 1306-1307 Lanercost Priory was technically a royal palace - something very unusual for an English monastery. King Edward I was en route to Scotland for a campaign against the Scots but, aged 67, his health was poor and on arrival at Lanercost Priory on 28 September 1306, it was clear he could travel no further. With a retinue of around 200 people including Queen Margaret, various nobles, servants, doctors and bodyguards, the king was accommodated at the priory.
This resulted in serious disruption to the life of the monks and the local people. Only in March 1307 did he move on to Carlisle, apparently having given very little money to the monks and people of Lanercost and the surrounding area in recompense for the enormous cost of his retinue's accommodation during the winter.
Providing heating and food for 200 or more people who were used to palace life was a huge endeavour for a small countryside community in medieval England. Just 5 months after leaving Lanercost Priory, Edward I died near Brough by Sands just a few miles from Carlisle. A stone cross marks the spot and is still there today.
The second notable point in the Priory's history came just a few years later when in 1311 King Robert The Bruce of Scotland led a Scottish army right to its doors. Over 3 days he inflicted complete destruction of many of the Priory's outlying properties. Some years later in 1346 the Priory was attacked by a large Scottish army and the church was plundered.
The most exceptional medieval feature of Lanercost Priory is the Lancercost Cross. Originally it stood outside the church but only the stump remains there today (see photo left).
However, the main shaft of the Lanercost Cross can be viewed separately as it has been housed inside the church since 1888. The shaft carries an inscription in Latin which dates back to 1214 (click on the photo left to view the cross inside the church and the inscription up close).
Although there has been damage to it over the centuries, the full text was actually recorded by Lord William Howard in 1607 - read more about Lord William on our priest hole page.
A translation of the inscription on the Lanercost Cross reads:
"In the 1214th year from the Incarnation, and the seventh year of the Interdict, Innocent III holding the apostolic see, Otto being emperor in Germany, Philip reigning in France, John in England, William in Scotland, this cross was made".
At almost 800 years old, this medieval stone cross is a fascinating historical feature which only adds to the wonderful character of Lanercost Priory.