Nov 14, 2011

5 Facts About Celtic Crosses

I never tire of talking about Celtic crosses or the High Crosses of Ireland. I plan to go back and see more of them. Here are some things you might not have thought of:

Muiredach's Cross
1. Most of the high crosses (maybe all) still existing today were erected by Christians. It's been said the symbol of the cross with a circle joining its arms, predates St. Patrick and Christianity, but none of the crosses still standing today are that old. But they are old. Muiredach's Cross at Monasterboice in County Louth was built in the 10th century. The Ardboe Cross in County Tyrone is about the same age, but perhaps even a bit older. Most of the high crosses can be associated with monasteries that used to stand on those sites.

2. The ancient high crosses were not grave markers. They were probably boundary markers, and might have marked the boundaries of monasteries. That's likely why they were so tall--so they could be seen from a long way off. In more recent times Celtic crosses have been used as grave markers. Here is one in NYC.

3. The crosses were carved from sandstone or granite. The high cross at Clonmacnoise was carved from a single slab of sandstone.

4. The crosses, especially those with biblical scenes, might have colorfully painted. They were stone versions of illuminated manuscripts.

5. The crosses with biblical scenes were probably used as teaching tools for folks who could not read or had no access to scripture, which was everyone not residing in a monastery or somehow connected with a church or a king.

South Cross
Celtic By Design posted an informative article on Celtic crosses that you should check out.

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