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Ireland's High Crosses

Where to Find Some Good Examples ...

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Tall Cross at Monasterboice

Tall Cross at Monasterboice

© 2007 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Apart from the round towers, the distinctive High Crosses are the most recognisable Irish monuments from the medieval period. Often copied, but never with the grandiose splendour of the immense "scripture crosses", the originals are still to be found all over Ireland. Threehundred in all, though some are jigsaw puzzles missing the bulk of their pieces.

Here are some High Crosses worth seeking out:

  • Ahenny (Co. Tipperary)
    - two crosses, northern cross 3.65 meters height, southern cross 3.35 meters height; 8th/9th century.

  • Arboe (Co. Tyrone)
    - 5.6 meters height; 10th century.

  • Armagh (Co. Armagh)
    - remains of a cross in the Anglican St.Patrick's Cathedral, 10th century.

  • Bealin (Co. Westmeath)
    - 2.05 meters height; created around 800.

  • Boho (Co. Fermanagh)
    - remains of a cross in the cemetery.

  • Carnonagh (Co. Donegal)
    - cross without ring, 2.50 meters height; 7th to 10th century. Shaft of another cross nearby, 1.68 meters height.

  • Cashel (Co. Tipperary)
    - remains of a cross, 2.28 meters height; 12th century (the outside cross is a copy!).

  • Castledermot (Co. Kildare)
    - two crosses, northern cross 3.12 meters height, southern cross 3.66 meters height; 9th century.

  • Castlekieran (Co. Meath)
    - three crosses and one base, all without major carvings, northern cross has 3.37 meters height.

  • Clogher (Co. Tyrone)
    - two crosses, northern cross 2.30 meters height, southern cross 2.75 meters height; 9th/10th century. Near the crosses a sun-dial can be found.

  • Clonca (Co. Donegal)
    - remains of a cross, 3.95 meters height.

  • Clones (Co. Monaghan)
    - two damaged crosses "renovated" into one, placed on the market square, 4.57 meters height; 10th century.

  • Clonmacnoise (Co. Offaly)
    - four crosses; northern cross ( shaft only) 2.00 meters height, southern cross 3.65 meters height, western cross ( shaft only) 0.92 meters height; may be from the 9th century. Additionally the "Cross of the Scriptures" with the immense height of 3.90 meters, manufactured around 901 and one of the most illustrated crosses.

  • Donaghmore (Co. Down)
    - 3.00 meters height; 9th/10th century, shaft and head are two separate parts.

  • Donaghmore (Co. Tyrone)
    - either assembled from two separate crosses or missing an original middle part, 4.80 meters height are impressive nonetheless.

  • Downpatrick (Co. Down)
    - 3.35 meters height; 9th/10th century.

  • Drumcliff (Co. Sligo)
    - 3.95 meters height; maybe 11th century.

  • Duleek (Co. Meath)
    - one complete cross of just 1.80 meters height; the head of another cross is nearby.

  • Durrow (Co. Offaly)
    - one cross of 3.60 meters height and a reworked cross-head (used as an architectural ornament).

  • Dysert O'Dea (Co. Clare)
    - cross without ring, 3.95 meters height; mid 12th century.

  • Galloon (Co. Fermanagh)
    - remains of two crosses.

  • Glendalough (Co. Wicklow)
    - cross without ring in Visitor Centre, roughly two meters height; 12th century.

  • Graiguenamanagh (Co. Kilkenny)
    - two crosses, northern cross (originally from Ballyogan) 2.30 meters height, southern cross (originally from Aghailten) nearly two meters height.

  • Inishkeel (Co. Donegal)
    - shaft of a of a cross, carvings show wickerwork.

  • Kells (Co. Meath)
    - three crosses und and a base near the church, the southern cross ("Cross of Kells" or "Cross of the Tower" or "Cross of St. Patrick and St. Columba") was created in the early 9th century, 3.30 meters height; the western cross ("Broken Cross") is in fragments, still 3.50 meters in height; the eastern cross ("Unfinished Cross") is only partly finished and a great example of the manufacturing process for these crosses, 4.25 meters height. Another cross is to be found near the Heritage Centre next to the N3, 3.35 meters height.

  • Kilbroney (Co. Down)
    - cross without ring, 2.50 meters height; only geometric carvings.

  • Kilfenora (Co. Clare)
    - two crosses; "Doorty Cross" near the cathedral has 2.00 meters height; another cross in a nearby field towers with 4.50 meters height; both 12th century.

  • Kilkieran (Co. Kilkenny)
    - three simple crosses and some fragments; northern cross ( "Tall Cross") 3.50 meters height with an unusual form (short crossarms); eastern cross ("Plain Cross") about 2.80 meters height; western cross ("Decorated Cross") 3.80 meters height with geometric ornaments of somehow imperfect execution. Some nearby fragments could be from another cross ... but might have been part of a shrine as well.

  • Killamery (Co. Kilkenny)
    - 3.65 meters height.

  • Killary (Co. Meath)
    - part of a cross-shaft, 1.80 meters height.

  • Kilree (Co. Kilkenny)
    - very weathered cross of 2.75 meters height.

  • Kinnitty (Co. Offaly)
    - cross near Castle Bernard (not the original site), 2.40 meters height; 9th century.

  • Lisnaskea (Co. Fermanagh)
    - fragment of a cross at the market square.

  • Lorrha (Co. Tipperary)
    - two large cross-bases.

  • Mona Incha (Co. Tipperary)
    - fragments from two crosses "restored" into one cross.

  • Monasterboice (Co. Louth)
    - three crosses; northern cross only preserved in fragments; southern cross ("Cross of Muiredach") manufactured around 920, 5.50 meters height; western cross ("Tall Cross") of nearly seven meters height, very weathered in parts, 10th century.

  • Moone (Co. Kildare)
    - 5.33 meters high cross with a very slim design (this may have been based on "sacred geometry"); 8th/9th century.

  • Old Kilcullen (Co. Kildare)
    - stump of a cross (nearly two meters height) and further fragments from the 9th/10th century.

  • Onaght (Insihmore, Aran Inseln)
    - cross-shaft and fragments.

  • Roscrea (Co. Tipperary)
    - partly restored cross from the 12th century.

  • St. Mullins (Co. Carlow)
    - cross with missing shaft, 2.10 meters height.

  • Seir Kieran (Co. Offaly)
    - cross-base with carvings, to be found in the cemetery.

  • Templeneiry (Co. Tipperary)
    - part of a cross-head and further fragments.

  • Termonfeckin (Co. Louth)
    - small cross of 2.10 meters height; 9th/10th century.

  • Tibberaghny (Co. Kilkenny)
    - a roughly 1.15 meters high stone in the cemetery could be a fragment of a cross-shaft; the carving shows a centaur.

  • Tihilly (Co. Offaly)
    - around 1.90 meters high remains of a cross.

  • Tuam (Co. Galway)
    - High Cross with grotesque proportions, "recreated" from two crosses.

  • Ullard (Co. Kilkenny)
    - restored cross with an added middle part.

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