Medieval cross-slabs are a class of decorated commemorative monument made from a single piece of stone, usually a flat or coped slab decorated with a carved design which includes a cross, often atop a shaft with a stepped base or calvary. The cross design may be simple or very complex in form, and there are sometimes additional inscriptions or motifs beside the cross. The decoration may be inscribed, incised, inlaid or in bas relief. In England cross-slabs are found dating from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, with fewer examples after the 14th century when monumental brasses and sculpted effigies become increasingly prevalent.
Cross-slabs often appear to have been set in the church floor as grave covers, but many have been disturbed over the years and have been rebuilt into tower bases, stairs or windows, porches or reset in floors after Victorian renovation. Others are lying loose in or around their church. Cross-slabs are very vulnerable to wear and tear and other damage, especially if they are loose. They are a relatively neglected type of monuments that are found across the country, with numerous fine examples in Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire cross-slabs have been noted by several researchers on an ad hoc basis during church visits, and there have been some more comprehensive recording campaigns in the past, although none appears to have covered the whole county, or have drawn and photographed all examples. The Gloucestershire Cross-slab Survey proposes to record all known cross-slabs in Gloucestershire, starting with the area covered in Buildings of England: The Cotswolds, before moving onto the area covered in The Vale and Forest of Dean. Churches, monastic sites and museums will all be checked, and any cross-slabs will be fully recorded, including accurate scale drawings and photographs.
Initial work will include the collation of existing records of cross-slabs, and the compilation of a GIS-linked database containing details of past observations and known slabs. The project will then move on to a phase of recording and the creation of an illustrated gazetteer of Gloucestershire cross-slabs. The database will be modelled on the surveys of Peter Ryder in the north-east of England to allow comparison.