Jun 16, 2010

The High Crosses

The high crosses are believed by some to be a marker, an indication to the wayward traveler that he or she was about to enter the domain of a monastery. The area around a monastery was declared a sanctuary, and like my previous post illustrated, it was a place where someone accused of a crime could come and be safe until he could be lawfully judged. There is even a story about St. Brigid that says that she once offered sanctuary to a wild boar that had run onto her monastery while being pursued by hunters.

Many of the crosses were used to illustrate and teach Bible stories to an illiterate public. Scenes such as the resurrection of Christ, and Daniel in the lion’s den, were carved into panels on the crosses. While the case is made that the cross symbol itself may have had pagan origins, the high crosses in Ireland and Britain were of Christian origin.

Whenever someone tries to separate the Christian and pagan there is difficulty. Paganism is the belief in many gods; Christianity believes in one Supreme Being. But beyond that what ancient practices can be attributed to each is not always clear. Contemporary pagans may have adopted some ancient symbols, but what the symbols represent is open for interpretation.

I do not believe a symbol can alter your faith. But it can, as with the Christian cross, be a daily reminder of the things that are important to you, such as sanctuary in God.

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