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History of The Celtic Cross

Ireland's Golden Age

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Continental Europe fell into a period of decline referred to as the Dark Ages. During this period, Ireland experienced a golden age of learning and art. The Seventh Century saw a flowering of art, learning and missionary endeavor throughout the Island, giving rise to the phrase, 'the land of saints and scholars'.

From the ninth to twelfth centuries, under the patronage of wealthy monasteries and powerful Celtic kings, Irish craftsmen produced some of Europe's finest early medieval art created in manuscripts, and artifacts in precious metals of gold, silver and stone.

The influence of Ireland's prehistoric pagan art, Hiberno-Norse motifs, Anglo Saxon art and European influences from further afield combined to create a unique insular art style. Innovations in sculpture, ornamental metalwork, manuscript illumination and architecture, coincided with developments in literature, language and grammar and the establishment of new church practices.

Ireland's Celtic Cross

The Celtic Crosses or High Crosses as they are commonly known, represent the high point of this art form, and are to be found in monastic settlements throughout Ireland. The elaborate motifs and scenes executed in stone on the High Crosses reflect not only the skill of the stonemasons but also highlight the transfer of artistic concepts and designs between the crafts of stone, metal and manuscript illumination of the period. As free standing sculptures, Irish high crosses dominated the architecture of Ireland’s main church settlements.

Please click on the links below for more information on some of Ireland's most famous Celtic Crosses and to view our range of replica Celtic Cross jewelry.

Celtic High Cross of Moone: At Moone in Co.Kildare, is the site of the early Columban foundation - "Moin Cholum Cille". Here you can see the tall slender Celtic Cross at Monasterboice which are standing where the monks placed them, the cross of Moone was lost for centuries, buried and in pieces. The capstone of the cross is still missing. More...

Celtic High Cross of Muiredeach / Monasterboice: The Celtic Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice in Co. Louth is one of the most beautiful of the Irish High Crosses still standing. At the base of the West side can still be seen the inscription in Irish "OR DO MUIREDACH LASNDERNAD IN CHROS" which when translated reads "A prayer for Muiredach, for whom this cross was made". Most scholars think that this applied to Muiredach, son of Domhaill, an abbot of Monasterboice who died about AD922. More...

Celtic High Cross of Clonmacnoise / Scriptures:The The city of the seven churches, Clonmacnoise, was founded in 548 AD and lasted a thousand years. Now it seems a quiet ruined abbey, but at its full flowering it was a bustling important centre, a university city on a major Irish highway, the River Shannon. More...

Celtic High Cross of Ardboe: The beautifully carved high Celtic crosses of early Christian times are unique to Ireland and Britain and are famous through Europe. The finest of them are the Scripture Crosses which tell the Bible story in a series of detailed panels. The fullest series of scenes is on the tall cross at Ardboe in Tyrone, on the west shore of Lough Neagh, not far from Coagh. More...

Celtic High Cross of Drumcliffe: "Beloved to my heart also in the West Drumcliffe, at Culcinne's strand." These lines are from a poem attribuated to St.Columcille (or St.Columba as he is also known) the founder of the monastry at Drumcliffe. He was born in Donegal, a member of a royal family, studied at bardic and monastic schools and after his ordination travelled Ireland and founded several monastic settlements, including Derry, near his own birthplace Durrow and Kells. More...

Celtic High Cross of Durrow: "Before he passed into Britain he built a noble monastery in Ireland which, from the great numbers of oaks is ... called dermach, the field of oaks". That is how an early writer described the founding of the monastery at Durrow by St. Columba - also known as St Columcille. More...

Celtic High Cross of Duleek: Duleek was an important ecclesiastical centre in the early Christian centuries and its Cross is unusual and very interesting. It was founded by St.Ciaran (or Kennean) who was himself baptised by St.Patrick in 472A.D. Here he built the first stone church recorded in Ireland. The name of the town comes from the Irish "daimh liag", a house of stones. The centre grew and flourished for more than 700 years and aerial photographs of the town show how the ecclesiastical boundaries still impose themselves on the street plan today. More...

Celtic High Cross of Carndonagh / St. Patrick: This lovely cross, known as the Cross of St. Patrick, is found in Carndonagh in the north of Donegal. Originally Carndonagh was a bishopric, said to have been established by St. Patrick himself. Because this cross does not have the ring that we all associate with Celtic crosses it was thought that it must have been erected in the 7th or 8th centuries - a forerunner of the ringed cross. Now, however, when scholars consider the quality of the carving they believe that the cross was made in the 9th or 10th century. More...

Celtic High Cross of Ahenny: Ahenny is an unusual place - a graveyard with two ancient Celtic crosses. Two Celtic crosses, striking and subtly different from many crosses seen on ancient monastic sites up and down the country, and different because there is nothing in the Annals or in any other records to tell us why they are there. More...

Celtic High Cross of St. Patrick and Columba Kells: This cross of St. Patrick and St. Columba is an authentic copy of the front and back faces of the original cross in Kells, County Meath. Columba founded a monastic settlement in Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland in 561. It was plundered repeatedly by Vikings and in 806 the surviving monks moved to kells. It was there that Ireland's best collection of High Crosses was assembled. The Cross of Kells, like the other crosses, is weatherworn but it is still possible to discern its great beauty and unusal features. More...

Celtic High Cross of Iona / St Martin: Iona is a small island off the Isle of Mull in western Scotland. It has been a "Holy isle" from time immemorial. An early Gaelic name for it was "Isle of the Druids". In the sixth century St.Columba (Columkille) went there from Ireland and founded a monastic settlement; still later there was a Medival Beuedietine Abbey on the same site. More...

Celtic High Cross of Cashel / Croke: This modern Celtic cross was originally erected by the citizens of Cashel in 1895 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Thomas Croke, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly from 1875 to 1902. More...

   
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