The Most Beautiful Celtic Crosses from Ancient Ireland
They are from the golden age of Celtic Christianity in Ireland in the 7-10th Centuries, which gave us such intricate and unique treasures like the Tara Brooch and the Book of Kells. To be defined as a Celtic High Cross, they have to date from before the 12th Century. Everything after that is labelled an Irish Cross.
Muiredach’s High Cross, Monasterboyce.
Muirdeach’s high Celtic Cross dates from the 9th Century and is considered the most beautiful example of this art form.
The cross stands and impressive 19 feet and is made up of seperate panels depicting biblical scenes. Given that the cross was carved over a 1,000 years ago the images are still very fresh. They depict scenes from the bible but with Irish costumes and dress of that period.
The Celtic Geometric patterns on this cross are exceptionally well crafted. They fall into three categories: spiral, interlace, and key-patterns.
This 11th Century piece is quiet interesting in that it shows the Celtic spirituality that was such an important factor in early Irish monasteries. The idea that God was in nature, pan-theism. The sides of the cross are decorated with animals from the bible and more unusually a depiction of a camel.
The spiral interlace Celtic patters that are so well recognized are also present. These never ending loops are decorative but they also represented the inter-connection of everything in this world and the next. A belief that reflects the same doctrines as Buddhism.
Photo by: Oliver Dixon
Clonmacnoise is the jewel in the crown of Irish abbeys. Approaching it from the Shannon on a boat, was an enjoyable memory for me. The sense of what it must of looked like a thousand years ago was so real.
This Celtic Cross show us what Chariots looked like in medieval Ireland and ordinary Irish clothes of the time. The cross is mentioned in 2 manuscripts from the 10th Century, in reference to the King, Flann, who had it made. The Celtic Church form Clonmacnoise sent monks to educate kings and nobles all across Europe.
The Bronze plates were inscribed with Celtic designs, like a modern plaque. This is why there is no risen images on this. The 5 bosses in the cross are replicas of ones that would have held the plates to the cross and the little “hat” on the cross would have kept the water from damaging the top post.
The meaning of Celtic Crosses
This intricate Cross from Durrow was carved in the 7th Century in honour of St. Ciaran, the monastery founder.
The central picture of the Cross features Jesus seated by David with a harp and a man playing the pipes, as would have been the normal for Lord in Gaelic Ireland.
The use of images also provided a way for the illiterate ordinary people a visual depiction of the the stories of their faith.
The Circle on Celtic had several purposes. It is reflective of the Sun and the energy that gives us all life. The circle itself shows how all life is connected and flows in a circle. Life, death, rebirth are all never ending. Less prosaically, it also provided a support to arms of the cross.
This is a pagan slant that survived in Celtic Christianity and was very influential in creating festivals like Christmas and Easter.
Comments are closed