My Life as a Replica: St John's Cross, Iona [Paperback]

Sally Foster(Author); Sian Jones(Author)

ISBN: 9781911188599 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2020 | 224p, H9.7 x W7.4, b/w and color
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My Life as a Replica


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.

Table of Contents


The concrete and non-concrete (SF)

I. Crafting lives
1. Life as a replica (SF & SJ)
Replication and authenticity
Analogue replicas still matter
The St John’s Cross and its copies matter
The lives and voices of replicas
Capturing lives: things, texts, images and people
Piecing it all together

2. Loving Iona (SF & SJ)
Island of crosses
Multiple communities
A ‘thick’ place

3. ‘Priceless monuments’ (SF)
Early antiquarian interest
New stewards, new horizons
‘History versus Mystery; Science and Art versus Faith’
Island voices
Dead or alive?

II. Creating and cultivating the cross
4. Formation and reformation (SF)
Salvation, wounds and resurrection
Antiquarian rebirth, earliest copies
Silent witness
The Fallen Cross

5. Birth of the concrete replica: ‘I can’t think of anything more worthwhile doing’ (SF)
A slow conception
Fertile possibilities
‘Miraculous success’: an ‘authentic prototype’ for an ‘authentic replica’
Erecting the replica
in situ
For the love of Iona
Material matters, first impressions
Celebrating the ‘virtually impossible’
MacLeod and the St John’s Cross
New life, new values

6. From out of the shadows (SF)
Place in the world
The Iona brand

7. Glorious revelation: contemporary significance, values and authenticity (SF & SJ)
‘Loaded objects’: meanings and relationships
Place and space
Material evidence of ‘pastness’
‘Glorious revelation’

III. Celebration in concrete, celebration of concrete
8. New life, new thinking (SF & SJ)
Rethinking authenticity and value
Heritage implications
Creating knowledge and understanding
Understanding social value and authenticity
Securing for the future
Engaging and experiencing
New lives, new stories

Appendix 1: Surviving physical remains of the St John’s Cross, its 1:1 replicas and their production
Appendix 2: Archival sources
Appendix 3: Breakdown of ethnographic sources


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