The High cross of Moone is to be found at in the ruined abbey of Moone in County Kildare. The famous Celtic cross is 18 feet high and over 1,200 years old!
The lands of south Kildare are not a major tourist destination, so unless you are from there you have no reason to be there. The area certainly has a sleepy agricultural feel to the place. When we visited the old monastery of Moone on a lovely spring afternoon, to see the famous Celtic cross which bears the name, we were pleasantly surprised and richly rewarded. Just a few miles off the busy M7, Moone is well worth a detour. The ruins of the monastery are in a picturesque setting on the banks of the River Greese. The remains of a medieval tower house, a mill house and a Georgian manor house clustered around an ancient stone bridge suggest a hamlet of significance in ancient times.
The old Irish name for the monastery at Moons is Moen or Moin Cholm-cille, the walled enclosure of Saint Colmcille or Columba as he was better known. The name suggests that the monastery was founded by the famous Irish churchman who lived in the sixth century. His connection with the site is supported by a twelfth-century literary source and a nearby holy well was a popular place of pilgrimage until the last century. The local Clan, The O’Flanagans provided hereditary abbots until the arrival of the Normans. By 1225, the archbishop of Dublin was in a position to give the monastery’s lands and mill to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin’s Liberties.
The Franciscan Order who were resident in the monastery built the church in about 1300 in the long rectangular shape typical of Irish medieval friary architecture. The monastery, along with all the great monasteries of Ireland, fell into disrepair after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536-40. Withing the church grounds there also once stood a four-story tower which as demolished in the early 1800s along with a Lady Chapel adjoining the north-east wall of the church.
Before 1850 a mason in search of good building stones discovered the base and head of a tall cross ‘deeply buried under a heap of fallen masonry’ where the tower had once stood. The fragments were reassembled by a mister Yeats the owner of the nearby manor house. One Michael O’Shaughnessy later discovered a shaft portion, which lay loose in the churchyard for many years before it was reunited with the rest of the cross in 1893, with the assistance of the Kildare Archaeological Society. This helped to raise the height and thereby made Moone one of the tallest high crosses in Ireland.
The granite for the cross must have been brought from some miles away and the slightly differing hues of the stones has led to speculation as to whether all three parts belong together. However, no evidence to the contrary was found when the cross was dismantled and moved to its present location in the church building in the mid-nineties.
The cross stands almost 18 feet tall and features striking detail. We can imagine the importance of the carvings on the cross to communicate the Christian faith to the illiterate Irish. The cross is certainly one of the most impressive of the Irish crosses. The figures on its base carved with a simplicity of means which expresses its biblical message with graphic clarity. The flat relief of most of the bodies conveys the stylized artwork beloved by the Celtic artists of the time. The detail was almost certainly painted in vivid colors. The various motifs are presented with a stylized simplicity which understates the carving mastery and brilliance of execution.
Carvings on The Shaft of The Cross
The east face of the cross features illustrations of a cow, a deer and two dogs. large spiral with small panels in the arms. Further decoration includes diamond lozenges and Celtic spirals. The center of the cross features serpents uncoiling themselves into the cross arms.
The West face features the figure of Christ with outstretched arms. The illustration at the top of the shaft features two human heads each in the jaws of two serpents uncoiling themselves from a central knot. The panels below show serpents uncoiling and a depiction of an insect from above.
Carvings at The Base of The Cross
The east side illustrates the twelve apostles, topped by a depiction of the crucifixion.
The lower panel of the west face depicts Daniel in the Lions Den. The center panel depicts the sacrifice of Issac and the upper panel represents Adam and Eve.
The lower panel of the north face depicts two animals presented in a stylised Celtic knot work the middle panel depicts the figure of a man flanked by tow beasts and the upper panel depicts Saints Paul and Anthony in the desert.
The south face lower panel depicts the parable of the loaves and the fishes, the mid panel depicts the flight in to Egypt and the upper panel suggests three children in the fiery furnace.
Replica of the Celtic Cross of Moone Pendant
It is of course no surprise that the Cross of Moone Celtic cross pendant is one of our most popular crosses from our replica Celtic cross pendants. The detail of the original cross is faithfully represented in either 14k or 10k yellow and white gold or hallmarked sterling silver. Learn more on the symbolism and meaning of the Celtic Cross.