Posted by: kljolly | September 18, 2018


A visit to the British Museum yesterday got me thinking about croziers, and what the bishops of Lindisfarne might have bequeathed to their heirs in exile at Chester-le-Street.  Room 41, the early medieval exhibit with Sutton Hoo as its centerpiece, has two crozier items on display:

The so-called Kells Crozier, from an Irish bishopric, with a classic curved shepherd’s crook, 133 cm tall (4.36 feet).  This metal covered wood staff was constructed and reconstructed between the eighth and twelfth centuries  (Marzinzik 2013, #149).  In one phase in the eleventh century, a sculpted head and reliquary box were added.  To me, the crook looks like the head of a horse or other beastie, something like the crest of a helmet.  See also the Clonmacnoise and the twelfth-century Lismore Crozier (Murray, 2007).


A walrus ivory tau-shaped crozier head,  Anglo-Saxon, early 11th century.  Tau-headed croziers are a late tenth-century innovation as a recommended shape for abbots (Marzinzik 2013, #73). A manuscript illustration shows such tau-headed croziers, but more wiry:  Durham Cathedral Library MS B.III.32, fol. 56v (DigiPal image).  The BM Alcester Tau Crozier has Christ trampling the dragon and lion on one side and a crucifix on the other, as well as stylized beasties and plants.  Although the height of the staff is unknown, the size of the head is much smaller than the Irish crozier. [The BM also has, not on display, another fragment of a late Anglo-Saxon carved walrus crozier head, with the BVM).

Of these two, I am inclined to think that the Irish shepherd’s crook is the more likely shape for the bishopric at Chester-le-Street in the tenth century, both because of their Lindisfarne legacy of Irish connections and because the tau head is a later tenth century innovation associated more with abbots.

RomsdalCrozierBitAnother clue is a remnant of a crozier, one of the knobby bits (knops) as seen on the Kells Crozier’s staff, found in an early tenth century Scandinavian female grave in Setnes, Romsdal.  As half a knop, it was recycled as a piece of jewelry from a late 8th or early 9th century crozier pillaged from northern England (also found a reliquary).  Initially I found these online news articles from 2014 reporting the research results of Griffin Murray (University College Cork):

Besides the Norwegian interest in trumpeting the viking role in preserving British treasures they stole that would otherwise have been lost (and that it “belongs” to Norway), all three articles contain the same images and basic conclusion of Murray that it is from a northern English crozier, not Irish.

Murray’s research is part of a larger project on insular croziers.  Some of his articles on the Scandinavian finds are available at  He gives a more detailed explanation of the Setnes fragment as Northumbrian, with analogues to Cumbrian artifacts of the mid-8th to mid-9th century (Murray 2016, 174).   In this and other articles, Murray takes the side in an ongoing debate that these ecclesiastical remains in Scandinavia are the result of viking raids in the British Isles, not insular Christian missions to Scandinavia.

For my purposes, the Setnes fragment confirms a style of crozier in Northumbria that is similar to the Kells crozier at the British Museum, and allows me to construct a crozier for Bishop Tilred. Perhaps what Tilred, bishop at Chester-le-Street, held in his hand in the tenth century had been refashioned over time from earlier Lindisfarne bishops, as bits were hacked off or damaged.  The core wooden staff might have dated back to Lindisfarne, but the metal work redone along the way.  I may have to write a history of survival for this imagined crozier, to go with the stories of preservation of Cuthbert’s coffin and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Still to investigate:  textual references or illustrations of a Lindisfarne crozier?

And last, crozier with a z versus crosier with an s?


  • Marzinzik, Sonja.  Masterpieces:  Early Medieval Art.  British Museum Press, 2013.
  • Murray, Griffin.  ‘Christian Missionaries or Viking Raiders? Insular Crosier Fragments in Scandinavia’ in O. Owen, V. Turner & D. Waugh (eds) Proceedings of the 17th Viking Congress, Shetland 2013. Shetland Heritage Publications, Shetland, 2016, pp 173-79.
  • Murray, Griffin.  ‘Insular Crosiers from Viking-Age Scandinavia’ Acta Archaeologica 86 (2015), 96-121.
  • Murray, Griffin.  ‘Insular-type crosiers: their construction and characteristics’ in R. Moss (ed.) Making and Meaning in Insular Art: proceedings of the fifth international Conference on Insular Art. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2007, pp. 79-94.




  1. ‘Crosier’ and ‘crozier’ seem to be acceptable alternatives in both American and British English. Maybe you could emulate Aldred by starting with a ‘vel’ construction and then alternating the different spellings as you go along.

  2. I like it! Currently I am working on how a crozier vel crosier is used by a bishop in ceremonial ways.

  3. […] short foray into croziers in my previous post has led to a deeper dive into the history and use of this item, which turned […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: