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Celtic Crosses

 
Images of Ireland - Co.Offaly - Clonfert Celtic Cross

Clonfert

The large stone crosses that dot the landscape of Ireland, as well as Scotland and other parts of Europe that were home to Celtic Christianity are an ongoing reminder of the early Celtic Church. Though each of the sculptures is different, there are some common characteristics.
It's hard to say what's the most obvious characteristic of a Celtic, or High Cross: it's size or the ring surrounding the intersection of the cross. Massive is probably the best way to describe the size of many of the crosses that reached more than four metres in height. This one in Clonfert, County Offaly, is not that old, but still built in the old style.

Clonmacnoise

Another characteristic of celtic crosses is the artwork on the shaft of the cross. Usually portraying Bible stories or the lives of saints, they were a way to educate a population that lacked universal access to the written word. The crosses were usually carved of sandstone or granite, though it is possible that earlier crosses of wood existed but didn't survive through the centuries. Most shafts show filigran celtic design, the typical winding network.
Today Clonmacnoise in County Offaly remains as a Celtic Christian site worthy of a visit by anyone interested in things Celtic. The present site has the ruins of a Cathedral, eight churches, two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of very early Christian grave slabs.

Images of Ireland - Co.Offaly - Clonmacnoise Celtic Cross
Images of Ireland - Co.Offaly - Clonmacnoise Celtic Cross

Clonmacnoise

The South Cross is a somewhat simpler, and early, high cross. The carvings are mainly abstract ornamentation with one figured scene on the west shaft showing the crucifixion. The date of the Southern Cross is arguable. Some scholars suggest a date around, or even before
800 a.d., but a recent interpretation of badly worn letters on the base suggest it may have been erected at the time of Maelsechnaill, the king named on the Cross of Scriptures.
 
Source: The Celtic Planet, Revd. George Dobbs

Faheen - Kilkieran Churchyard Restoration

A little cemetery in Faheen, County Kilkenny, abroad the big national roads, caught my interest with two large celtic crosses which were broken, but were restored in the mid 19th century by a blind stonemason from Faheen named Paddy Laurence, who had lost his sight while engaged in the building of the House of parliament in London.
The legend of the four meter tall cross is that if you can put the mitre on your head you will be cured of headaches. There must have been a plague of headaches at the time considering the number of cures found in the area. It's no wonder it would cure a headache because the size of the mitre is so large it would crush a person's head!

Images of Ireland - Co.Kilkenny - Faheen St. Kilkieran Celtic Cross
Images of Ireland - Co.Kilkenny - Faheen St. Kilkieran Celtic Cross

Faheen - Celtic Cross Horses

Local people have done much valued work in the restoration of Kilkieran churchyard,which is situated in the townsland of Castletown. The graveyard hold much of interest for the local and not to local historian and follower of our older past. The Kilkenny Archaeological Society and it's Journal has done much research into it, as have in recent years this very civic minded local group.

Faheen - Armless Celtic Cross

Besides the remains of the two large celtic crosses in this very interesting graveyard, which many historians and experts of this tell of their great antiquity, one unique cross in particular consists of a tall and slender shaft of 2.5 meters with short side arms. This is still almost perfect and carries some other ornamentation. These crosses date to around the 9th century.

Images of Ireland - Co.Kilkenny - Faheen St. Kilkieran Celtic Cross
Images of Ireland - Co.Meath - Kells St. Columba's Church

Kells

If the Book of Kells is a small scale testament to the artistic achievement of the age, then the "High Crosses" are painted on a much broader canvas. There are five of them in Kells altogether. Four are situated in the churchyard of St. Columba's church The South Cross is the best preserved in Kells and has been signed by the craftsman who created it. When you visit it, look carefully at the base and MUIREADACH's name may be faintly visible.     Source: Kells Net

Kells

The South Cross tells a lot of stories, here the babtise of Jesus Christ. What I like most is the connection of the meaning of ancient celtic ornaments and christian believes. These celtic crosses are witnesses of how both could go together until church got too mighty. Both systems completed each other and made sense for the people and their need to believe into a higher spirit and to find their place in the wheel of life.

Images of Ireland - Co.Kerry - Killorglin Cemetery

Killorglin

Killorglin is just a nice little town in County Kerry, not much to see, but once a year in August it's bursting, when the Puck Fair takes place in the geographical heart of Kerry.
I was more fascinated of the peaceful big cemetery. No ancient celtic crosses are erected here, only reproductions of all kind, but even they show the traditional wheel of life. It's worth to take some time and walk between the graveyards, carefully, cause uncountable little memorial stones are set in the high grass. I was touched by reading the inscriptions.

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