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 | Language: English 224p, H246 x W189 (mm) b/w and colour

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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
1. 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

Reviews & Quotes

"...promotes a much deeper understanding of replicas' important role in object biographies, contemporary place-making and identities. Furthermore, it is a nice example of community archaeology which will be of interest to both archaeologists and heritage specialists."
Neil Christie
Medieval Archaeology (12/10/2021)

"The results of the ethnographic study, in particular, reveal fascinating insights into how attitudes to, and experience of, objects can be affected by the knowledge that they are replicas, and then reshaped by a fuller understanding of the research and thoughtful processes involved in constructing the replica. This makes it a useful case study for reflecting on the many replicas of monuments and artefacts around the world. As well as detailing the biography of an important monument, this excellent volume challenges ideas about authenticity and value in the presentation and interpretation of heritage. "
Claire Nesbitt
Antiquity (18/07/2022)

"I really can’t say how much I enjoyed your wonderful book. I’ve already told my colleagues in my Team that it’s required reading because it will change people’s perspective, not just on replicas of course, but on community engagement, conservation, preservation of ruins, and restoration."
Ranald McInnes
Historic Environment Scotland (29/12/2020)

"…a very densely packed, many-facetted, thought-provoking book. It is well worth taking time to read and ponder over."
Sheila Hainey
Pictish Arts Society (27/08/2020)

"The book is well-served by its integral appendices, bibliography and index and online by extensive 3-D imagery on Sketchfab. It makes a great addition to the libraries of all early medieval sculpture enthusiasts and Ionaphiles."
Mark Hall
Archaeology Scotland Magazine (06/10/2020)

"...certainly an addition to our knowledge of what has been written previously about Iona, and there are also many fine photographs… "
Rosemary Power
Folklore Society

"The authors have done great service not simply to Iona, its people and those who admire the island, but to the global community of those who strive to achieve the best outcome for the built heritage."
Aonghus Mackechnie
Innes Review (17/05/2021)

"The publication's carefully considered discussions are a complemented by a selection of wonderful images, offering a rich visual journey that places the Cross in the context of the local landscape and community, as well as within wider discussions about the place of sculptures and replicas."
Amy Brunskill
Current Archaeology (03/12/2020)

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