Celtic Durrow High Cross

If you are looking for a historic day break, Durrow Abbey provides a wonderful ancient Celtic experience featuring the ancient Durrow <strong>Celtic Cross</strong> as well as other Celtic Cross Slabs exhibited within a conserved church. Durrow is one of Ireland’s most important early Christian monasteries and is considered to be of international importance.

Situated from an hour drive outside of Dublin, Durrow Abbey is the place to enjoy the beauty of the ancient Celtic heritage.

Durrow High Cross

Durrow is the site of the earliest and most important monasteries founded by St Columcille about AD550. The Book of Durrow is an illuminated Gospel manuscript which pre-dates the Book of Kells.

Although the Early Christian monastery no longer exists, physical evidence of its importance remains, as do the anniversaries and festivals in the locality. The renowned Pattern of Durrow still takes place every year in June, the first documented evidence of Pattern festival in the locality dates back to 1463 and has flourished from 1880’s to present day and is now one of the few remaining patterns in Ireland.

Durrow Abbey

I hope you get a sunnier day when you visit.

About 500 metres north of the High Cross one can find a holy well named as St Colmcilles well. Above the entrance of the well is a plaque with AD550 written on it. Nearby, in the woods, stands a Norman motte.

The historic site, including the church and the High Cross, is opened to the public throughout the year and serves a visit for anyone interested in the ancient Celtic heritage.

The High Cross of Durrow stands at 3.60 meters tall. If you would like to purchase a replica of the Celtic Cross of Durrow or view the rest of our authentic Celtic cross jewelry replica crosses visit Celtic Cross Online.

The Pagan Roots of the Celtic Cross

The ancient Celts were first mentioned by early Roman historians in the fifth century BC. They were warlike tribes who lived in the foothills of the Alps in southern France. They gradually expanded their territory and eventually migrated to Britain and Ireland. When we think of Irish Celtic Art, we tend to associate it with these people to arrived on our shores and brought their visual art with them. In particular, we refer to period of artistic expression after they had been Christianized during the early part of the fifth century. This Celtic art is best expressed in the iconic knotwork found in Irish Celtic crosses.

muiredach celtic cross

Celtic Cross of Muiredach, found at the monastery at Monasterboice, County Louth.

The Celts believed themselves to be part of a complex natural system. Central to this system is the concept of a center or cosmic axis, imagined as an oak tree carrying mistletoe, whose branches support the canopy of heaven and the roots joining the underground world. It thus linked together three superimposed worlds: the Heavens, the Earth of the humans and the Underground world.

The early symbolism of The Cross

Since the fifth century The Celts have used the simplest representation of a cross, a circle and a superimposed cross, to explain the interconnectedness of the world. The cross represents the four major directions, with the circle indicating the limits of territory that surrounds the central point. The cross also suggests the movement of the sun, not only throughout the day from sunrise to sunset, but also its journey through the annual events of solstices and equinoxes.

Dragons and the Celtic Knot

Early Celtic art also incorporates the emblem of the pair of dragons. Intertwining dragons form the basis of the stylized Celtic knot we are so familiar with today. The knotwork was typically used to decorate weapons, especially sword scabbards and shields of Celtic warriors. According to an account of the Welsh Mabinogi, such dragons would have been found on Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur.

Celtic Art and the Celtic Cross

Saint Brigid’s Well in County Kildare

Rather than subdue the pagan world the people of Ireland were won over to Christianity by adopting pagan beliefs and traditions to the new faith. Pagan springs became holy wells and pagan festivals became patterns in the Christian calendar. Even Celtic heroes evolved into Saints. Saint Brigid was a goddess of Pre-Christian Ireland, associated with the spring season, fertility, healing and poetry. The ultimate representation of the evolution of early Celtic Art into Celtic Christian art can be found in the example of the Irish Celtic High Cross. The pattern is arranged vertically with Christ figure in the center representing the connection between the heavenly, terrestrial and infernal worlds. The earliest pagan symbolism reused to represent Christianity. Saint Patrick was a clever fellow.

Celtic Cross of Muiredach at Clonmacnoise

If you are visiting Dublin have have a day to spare, you could consider taking a trip up the coast to the town of Drogheda. During medieval times, Drogheda vied with Dublin to be the capital of English rule in Ireland. Strategically situated at the mouth of the River Boyne it is easy to appreciate how it grew to become a prosperous town of The Pale.

Just outside the town, the historic monastic ruins of Monasterboice are well worth a visit. The site has the remains of an early round tower and two 14th century church buildings, but is most famous for its stone Celtic Crosses. High crosses were decorated with biblical scenes and were used to convey Christ’s teachings to those who could not read.

monasterboice, celtic cross

High Cross in the shadow of the ruined round tower at Monasterboice.

Located near the round tower, the West cross, standing at 6.5m high, is Ireland’s tallest high cross. Located near the entrance to the site is the magnificent Muiredach’s Cross. Named for the Abbot mentioned in the inscription on the base: ‘A prayer for Muirdach for whom the cross was made.’ Standing 5.5m tall, it is certainly Ireland’s finest Celtic Cross.

celtic cross of muiredach

Biblical scenes recreated in stunning detail on the Celtic Cross of Muiredach

The main sculpture on the circular head on the west face is an elaborate Crucifixion scene while on the eastern face there is an even more interesting and elaborate Last Judgement. The face of the shaft on the west side shows incidents in the Life of our Lord, incidents from the Old Testament, stories from the lives of the Saints and symbolic figures. However, the scenes on our High crosses are not confined to biblical and religious subjects only and there are scenes on the Muiredach Cross that are open to different interpretations. The scenes on the shaft of the cross are read from the bottom up. These are said to represent Christ seized in the Garden; The Incredulity of Thomas is said to be thrusting his hand into Our Lord’s side; and Christ seated between Peter and Paul, giving the keys to the one and The Book of the Gospel to the other.

View our range of authentic replica Celtic cross jewelry including the Cross of Muiredach .

Clonmacnoise and The Celtic Cross of Scriptures

Founded By Saint Ciaran in the 6th century, Clonmacnoise occupies a beautiful site on the banks of the river Shannon. The monastery was founded on a strategic site by the fording point of the Eiscir Riada, or the Royal Route that travels East to West across the country. From the 8th to 12th century the monastery grew to become the most important ecclesiastical centre in Ireland with a population of over two thousand. The monastery was plundered many times by both the Viking and Norman invaders and was finally destroyed in 1552 by the English garrison in Athlone.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross at Clonmacnoise

Despite the fact that the site has been abandoned for many centuries, there is much to see. A round tower dating from the time of the Vikings is to be found down by the river’s edge. Close by is the Temple Connor, an 800-year-old church with its original roof intact. The largest Church in the site is the cathedral, built in the 10th Century by the King of Tara. Clonmacnoise is famous for the artistic achievements of it inhabitants, in particular the Celtic Cross. The Cross of Scriptures, which originally stood in front of the Cathedral, is arguably the finest Celtic Cross in Ireland. The cross is carved from sandstone and stands four meters high. The surface of the cross is divided into panels that depict scenes from the bible including, the crucifixion, the Last Judgement and Christ in the Tomb. The cross is now housed in the museum which also contains some other crosses from the site. If you are lucky enough and the sun shines while you’re there, you will find Clonmacnoise a delightful place to visit.

View our range of authentic replica Celtic cross jewelry including the Cross of Scriptures .