Cambs Uni Publications

  • THE FYLFOT-CROSSES IN THE CHURCH OF SAINT MARY THE VIRGIN GREAT CANFIELD

Years ago I was told by a University don here in Cambridge, in no uncertain terms, ‘Don’t do it! You will never be able to restore the fortunes of this symbol now so hopelessly tarnished with the Nazi brush. In fact, you are likely to stir up more trouble than it’s worth, and you’ll create more problems than you’ll solve.’ Was he right?!?

Then I remembered that some years before when I was on an ordination retreat in Essex that I had taken a short cycle ride and discovered the lovely little church of St. Mary the Virgin, Great Canfield. When I entered the porch I was amazed to find five ‘swastikas’ cut into the stonework on the left of the front door.

What on earth were they doing there in a place of Christian worship that had been standing there since the Middle Ages? Visitors sometimes asked what they thought might have been an embarrassing question for the Vicar, but the guidebook simply pointed to the source as ancient Rome, and the warren of underground catacombs still accessible today.

So began my quest to track down the reason why these symbols were found in a Christian Church and what they might mean.

40 years later I published a booklet on these five ‘Swastikas’ making clear that they had come from the ‘Gammadion’ of the ancient classical world; and that they might well be termed ‘Fylfot-Crosses’ within the cultural heritage of Western Europe.

The Bishop of Chelmsford wrote in the Foreword, “We are delighted that it has been possible for Stephen Taylor to carry out research into the highly unusual Fylfot-Crosses that occur here, carved, it is thought, in the first half of the twelfth century. His work incorporates extensive study of the history of this style of cross, and looks at the use of the Fylfot-Crosses from earliest times to the present day, touching on its use in both Christian and non-Christian cultures alike.”

and looks at the use of the Fylfot-Crosses from earliest times to the present day, touching on its use in both Christian and non-Christian cultures alike.”