The High Crosses of Ireland

by Christine Sine

As many of you already know, while I am in Australia with my Mum, the rest of Mustard Seed Associates are getting ready for our annual Celtic retreat. We have a number of Celtic crosses we use for this event, all based on these High Crosses, so I thought I would post this as a respite to the journey I am living out here.

High Crosses or Celtic Crosses as they are also known, are found throughout Ireland (and Scotland) on old monastic sites. Along with the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, these High Crosses are Irelands biggest contribution to Western European Art of the Middle Ages. Some were probably used as meeting points for religious ceremonies and others were used to mark boundaries. The earliest crosses in Ireland were made of wood and metal and probably much smaller than the great stone monuments we see today. It was generally accepted that the Western Ossory group were amongst the earliest examples of High Crosses to be found in Ireland. Their design imitates the wood and metal crosses before them; but a recent study suggests they may not be 8th century but possibly mid 9th century. These crosses are found within a few miles of each other at Kilkieran, Kilree, Killamery and the finest examples at Ahenny. The majority of scriptural crosses are also believed to have been erected around the 9th century and there are several local groupings: the North Leinster group includes Kells, Monasterboice and Duleek; the Midlands group includes Clonmacnois and Durrow; and another distinct group of granite High Crosses are those of the Barrow valley that includes Castledermot, Graiguenamanagh, Moone and Ullard.

To find out more and for links to information about individual crosses check out The HIgh Crosses of IrelandOr for a slide show of some of the high crosses click here

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