the buzz

Robert Thornley creates Cave Creek cross for church

By Curtis Riggs| June 11, 2008
FlowersLocal artist Robert Thornley returned to his sculpting roots recently when he started on the 18-foot limestone Cave Creek Cross.
Thornley was commissioned to create the large religious sculpture, which is modeled after the Ruthwell Cross in Scotland, by Father Steven Dart of Christ Anglican Church on the Carefree/Cave Creek border. The Cave Creek Cross is constructed of five large limestone blocks from a quarry in New Mexico.

While the Cave Creek Cross does not exactly replicate the Ruthwell Cross, an Anglo-Saxon preaching cross that was erected in Dumfriesshire, Scotland in the eighth century, it incorporates much of the genesis of the ancient cross and will “stand as a symbol of hope and peace for all to see.”

Father Dart calls Thornley’s new creation “a proclamation of our faith,” adding it is based on the ancient poem “The Dream of the Root.”

“The carvings explain and proclaim what we believe,” he said. The preaching cross tells an important Christian story.
Thornley cross
Cromwell’s men knocked down the Ruthwell Cross when the British invaded Scotland centuries ago. It was reconstructed in the Nineteenth Century.

“We wanted to make sure the Cave Creek Cross did not just copy the Ruthwell Cross,” Dart said about Thornley’s work. “We felt it should express our own ethos and experience.”

Thornley, who has been carving abstract pieces for years after formerly focusing on realistic works of cowboys, Indians and mountain men, was an obvious choice to receive the commission for the Cave Creek Cross because of the friendship he fostered with Dart after his wife, Sherrie, passed away five years ago.

“Switching from abstract to traditional was not tough; each piece has its own place,” he said. “I just had to refresh my memory on perspective and scale. Doing faces, muscles and folding clothes came back to me from years of doing it.”

Dart is asking people to write prayers that will be placed in the foundation of the cross. To submit a prayer or to receive more information about the Cave Creek Cross call 480-488-0525.