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My Life as a Replica (Paperback)

St John’s Cross, Iona

P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval Archaeology

By Sally Foster, Siân Jones
Imprint: Windgather Press
Pages: 224
Illustrations: b/w and colour
ISBN: 9781911188599
Published: 25th March 2020
Casemate UK Academic



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In 1970 a concrete replica of the St John’s Cross arrived in Iona sitting incongruously on the deck of a puffer delivering the island’s annual supply of coal. What is the story behind this intriguing replica? How does it relate to the world’s first ringed ‘Celtic cross’, an artistic and technical masterpiece, which has been at the heart of the Iona experience since the eighth century? What does it tell us about the authenticity and value of replicas?


In this fascinating book, Foster and Jones draw on extensive interdisciplinary research to reveal the composite biography of the St John’s Cross, its concrete replica, and its many other scale copies. They show that replicas can acquire rich forms of authenticity and value, informed by social relations, craft practices, creativity, place and materiality. Thus, the book challenges traditional precepts that seek authenticity in qualities intrinsic to original historic objects. Replicas are shown to be important objects in their own right, with their own creative, human histories - biographies that people can connect with. The story of the St John’s Cross celebrates how replicas can ‘work’ for us if we let them, particularly if clues are available about their makers’ passion, creativity and craft.


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About Sally Foster

Sally Foster is Senior Lecturer in Heritage and Conservation at the University of Stirling and former Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic Scotland. Past publications include the bestseller Picts, Gaels and Scots and A Fragmented Masterpiece: Recovering the Biography of the Hilton of Cadboll Pictish Cross-Slab. Replicas, carved stones, the early church, authenticity, value, materiality, biography and landscape are dominant themes in her interdisciplinary research.

About Siân Jones

Siân Jones is Professor of Environmental History and Heritage at the University of Stirling. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with expertise in cultural heritage, as well as the role of the past in the production of power, identity and sense of place. Siân has published widely on conservation, authenticity, social value and community heritage. Her books include The Archaeology of Ethnicity and A Fragmented Masterpiece.

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