High cross

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This article is about Celtic crosses, for the Roman crossroads in England, see High Cross, Leicestershire
High Cross in Ireland
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High Cross in Ireland

A High Cross is a standing cross with a circle, made of stone and often richly ornamented. High Crosses exist in Celtic parts of Britain and Ireland; the Irish High Cross has become more famous because of its distinctive shape (the ringed Celtic Cross) and the amount and quality of decoration.

The ring initially served to strengthen the head and the arms of the High Cross, but it soon became a decorative feature as well.

The High Crosses were status symbols, either for a monastery or for a sponsor or patron.

The early 8th century crosses had only geometric motifs, but from the 9th and 10th century, biblical scenes were carved on the crosses. There were no crosses after the 12th century.

Amongst the most famous are:

  • Muiredach's Cross and West Cross at Monasterboice, County Louth)
  • Saint Tola's High Cross
    • An 11th century cross at Dysert O'Dea Castle showing Christ and a bishop carved in high relief on the east and west sides
  • Ahenny High Cross
  • Ardboe Cross
    • A 10th century cross near Cookstown, eroded, showing 22 panels with scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
  • Cross of the Scriptures, Clonmacnoise
    • The original 9th century cross is housed in a museum, but a copy stands on the original site.
  • North Cross, Clonmacnoise
  • South Cross, Clonmacnoise
  • St. Kevin's Cross, Glendalough
    • A 12th century cross, well preserved, made of granite.
  • South Cross, Kells, County Meath
    • The South Cross is the best preserved of several 9th century crosses.
  • Doorty Cross, Kilfenora, County Clare.
    • Has a bishop and two other clerics carved on it.
  • Three crosses at Kilkieran, County Tipperary
    • Plain Cross (unadorned), West Cross (with much ornamentation), Long Shaft Cross (has a long shaft with decoration).
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