Founded by Saint Columba in the 6th Century

The Celtic cross of Durrow is located in Durrow Abbey, County Offaly. The cross dates back to the 9th century AD. The abbey of Durrow is situated about 3 miles north of Tullamore. So, if you’re ever in the area make sure to pay a visit as you will be amazed by the mere sight of the crosses impressive complex artwork centuries ahead of its time. The cross depicts numerous events from the bible that are so clear to make out its a shock to hear that carvings were carved 1000 years ago!!!

Who Was Saint Columba

Saint Columba was born on December 7th 521AD to Fedlimid and Eithne near Lough Gartan in present day Donegal. Some sources suggest that he may be a descendant of the high king of Ireland who ruled the collection of small kingdoms that made up Ireland sometime in the 5th century AD. Given his parents financial and social status this royal lineage would not be surprising. Columba was a bright young lad and was sent to study christian theology and philosophy alongside Latin at the monastic school of Movilla. After he completed his time there he spent some time studying at the monastic school of Clonard Abbey. By the time Columba was in his early twenties he was highly educated and well versed in christian scriptures and philosophical thought as well as fluent in Latin ancient Greek. He was a highly respected theologian.

St Columba was famous for converting the masses of heathens to Christianity throughout the Celtic world. His work was so vital for the development of the early christian church in Ireland and Scotland that it earned him a place amongst patron saints such as St Brigid and St Patrick. He founded several monastic settlements throughout his life. He established monastic settlements in Derry, Swords, Kells and Durrow. The birthplaces of beautiful texts iconic to that period of time such as the legendary Book of Kells. Ireland’s most famous sacred texts and a valuable contributor to the tourism sector in our economy.

Saint Columba left Ireland for Scotland with his twelve companions. They crossed the Irish sea in a currack which is a small basket-shaped boat covered in animal hides. It must have been a very rough journey. It is believed he landed on the Kintyre peninsula. He traveled up the northwest coast of Scotland converting the masses as he went. He founded a small monastic settlement on the isle of Iona as well as several churches in the Hebrides.

daniel imageiona Monastery and Cross of Durrow
Iona on a sunny day, if you are lucky!

The Founding of Durrow Abbey

The monastery or the Abbey of Durrow was founded around 553 or 556 AD by Saint Columba who also established 26 other monasteries by the age of just 25! Saint Columba ran the monastery for a short while until around 563 AD before he left for Scotland appointing his second cousin in his place. Durrow was known for being a beacon for education it was very common for monks to pay pilgrimage to this site not only for religious reasons but also for the chance to learn to read and write both in Latin and Irish as well as have have access to beautiful illuminated manuscripts such as the book of Durrow, written around the ninth century AD. The name Durrow originated as the Irish word as daru which means plain of oaks, so this means grove of oak trees and is currently the location of Ireland’s only pre-medieval oak trees which just puts in perspective how old the monastery is!

durrow abbey churchyard
Durrow Abbey Churchyard on a frosty morning.

The Cross of Durrow

The Cross of Durrow dates back to around AD 550 and was part of the monastery when it was established in the 6th century AD. The cross stands proudly at almost 12 feet tall and along with St Columcille’s well is all that remains of the early Christian settlement.

cross of Durrow
cross of Durrow
Durrow Celtic Cross protected from the elements.

The details on the Durrow high cross are beautifully carved out on the stone and really bring out the beauty of the cross. The east face of the head of the cross depicts Christ holding a sceptre and a cross-staff which is believed to be symbolic for the last judgement. On the right of Christ a piper and St David playing his harp are depicted. To the left of Christ David and the lion are depicted.

durrow cross detail Monastery and Cross of Durrow
Exceptionally detailed carvings on the Cross

The bottom of the shaft shows Christ being watched over by two angels St Peter and St Paul. In the middle of the shaft is a beautiful intricate Celtic interlacing design. On top of the shaft shows the sacrifice of Issac. All over the cross, they are scenes from the old testament and new testament used to teach people about the bible. This cross is so beautiful its sure to draw you back time and time again.

durrow castle037 2 Monastery and Cross of Durrow
Castle Durrow is a fine country castle hotel in County Offaly.

Whilst you’re in the area it would be a great time to explore the county of Offaly. This county is not often considered a hotspot for tourism but you would be pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do. Offaly is home to many many tokens from Ireland’s past such as the ruins of castles, grand houses and monasteries which is enough to please any history fan. Capturing the beautiful scenery to be enjoyed such as bogs woods and glens perfect for a stroll after enjoying a nice Sunday roast. You also can enjoy lovely beer as well as beautiful traditional music in Offaly with many little pubs where traditional nights with loads of craic are found in abundance.

Durrow Celtic Cross Replica Necklace

Celtic Cross of Durrow
Celtic Cross of Durrow

This beautiful Celtic cross necklace recreates all the magnificent detail of the original Cross of Durrow. The necklace is part of our replica cross collection of necklaces. Learn more on the symbolism and meaning of the Celtic Cross.

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