17th-century Crucifix Found

News Release #3

Ferryland, NL, July 10, 2014 … Archaeologists at the Colony of Avalon site in Ferryland have unearthed a copper crucifix that dates to the time of George Calvert’s dream of religious freedom in British North America. The artifact will be on display at the Colony of Avalon’s Interpretation Centre starting July 16th.

It is a small crucifix, 2.8 cm in width, broken at the top but showing a simple representation of Christ on the front and the Virgin Mary and Christ Child on the back. Archaeologist Dr. Barry Gaulton, Field Director of the Colony of Avalon and Associate Professor of Archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, noted: “As far as artifacts go, this particular object is quite exceptional. The Catholic iconography is unmistakable. As with all archaeological discoveries, the context in which the artifact was found tells us its story.”

The crucifix was amongst a collection of ceramics, bones, nails and building debris associated with the construction of a large stone dwelling built for Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, in Ferryland, Newfoundland. The dwelling was started sometime after 1623 and completed before the arrival of Calvert, most of his family and about 40 additional settlers in 1628. The cultural deposit containing the crucifix was sealed sometime in the second half of the 1620s, thus providing a securely datable context for the artifacts and a window into the lives of those who worked at Calvert’s colony of Avalon during this early period.

The crucifix was once owned by a Catholic colonist at Avalon and served as a personal devotional item or as part of a rosary. Back in England, Catholics would be fined, imprisoned, or executed for openly practicing their religious beliefs. George Calvert had a different vision for his New World colony at Ferryland. It was to be a place where all Christians would enjoy freedom of religion without fear of persecution. These forward-thinking ideas made Calvert’s Newfoundland colony the birthplace of religious toleration in British North America.

This artifact brings us back to that same period in history. It is the first unequivocally Catholic artifact found at Ferryland dating specifically to the Calvert era (1621-1629). Perhaps it belonged to one of the craftsmen working on Calvert’s house, or the colony’s second governor, the Catholic gentleman Sir Arthur Aston, or even George Calvert himself, who briefly visited Ferryland in the summer of 1627.

Its discovery was an unforgettable experience for Memorial University undergraduate student Anna Sparrow, who unearthed the crucifix on July 4th. She said of the discovery: “There is so much time, effort and patience involved in excavation, that to find something with such historical significance is incredible.” The crucifix is currently being cleaned and conserved by Memorial’s Archaeological Conservator, Donna Teasdale. “The smooth, almost polished, surfaces on the crucifix lead me to believe that it was definitely part of a rosary. It was rubbed repeatedly over a period of time.” said Teasdale.

The Colony of Avalon is a heritage site of international significance. The first permanent settlement at Ferryland was founded on behalf of Lord Baltimore in 1621. He named the colony Avalon. In 1638 war hero Sir David Kirke, his wife Lady Sara Kirke and their family took up residence in Calvert’s “mansion house”. The earlier settlement then became the home of the Kirkes’ “Pool Plantation”.

Over the last 22 years archaeology has brought to light evidence of a long history of human habitation of this small area known as “The Pool”. Visitors to the Colony of Avalon can view the extensive remains of the stone buildings of the 17th-century. Archaeologists have recovered more than two million objects, reflecting the everyday lives, the hardships and the luxuries of the early colonists.

At the Colony of Avalon, the stories of Lord and Lady Baltimore, Sir David and Lady Sara Kirke and other early settlers are brought to life for visitors through guided tours and demonstrations of life in the 17th century. Site features include an Interpretation Centre, active Archaeological Dig, Conservation Laboratory, 17th-century Kitchen and Gardens, and an award-winning Gift Shop. Special programs and packages include Archaeologist for a Day, Dig & Dig In, Land and Sea Explorer, and more.

For more information about the Colony of Avalon, and updates on our discoveries, please visit www.colonyofavalon.ca, www.facebook.com/ColonyOfAvalon or twitter.com/ColonyofAvalon.


For more Colony of Avalon information and images, please contact:

Patti Broughton
Executive Director
Colony of Avalon Foundation
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
1.877.326.5669 Toll Free
709.689.6950 Mobile

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