What is Irish Crossing Design

Celtic High Cross Sculptures (c.750-1150 CE)



The Kilfenora site, located in the Burren, County Clare, was originally occupied by a monastery founded by St Fachtna. It is now occupied by the Cathedral, which was constructed during the late twelfth century. There are six high crosses at Kilfenora (one being removed to Killaloe during the early nineteenth century), of which three are still whole, including the famous carved Doorty Cross. Another sculpture, known as the West Cross, stands some distance away. The Doorty Cross displays a number of weather beaten religious and scriptural carvings, while the West Cross contains a crucifixion and various Celtic patterns.



Located in the graveyard of the Sacred Heart Church in Toneel, the Boho High Cross of County Fermanagh was built from sandstone and is about 8 feet tall. Its scriptural carvings include scenes from Genesis and the Baptism of Christ. Archeological evidence indicates that the sculpture was re-erected in the graveyard sometime during the mid-nineteenth century.


Standing in the potato market on the main street of the town, the high cross at Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, is a composite sculpture with an original base (relocated from a local monastery), about 5 feet tall, topped by a more modern cross. Scriptural illustrations are similar in content to the Boho Cross, depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Creation.



The two surviving ninth century granite high crosses at Castledermot, County Kildare, stand on the site of an abbey founded by St Dermot. The monastic complex still boasts a round tower, and the remains of a third cross. The two complete sculptures depict numerous biblical scenes, including: the Crucifixion and the twelve apostles from the New Testament, and the Garden of the Creation, King David, the Sacrifice of Isaac and the prophet Daniel.


At 5.5 meters in height, the High Cross at Moone, in County Kildare is the second highest cross in Ireland. Now restored to include all its original parts, the eighth century granite cross now stands inside the ruins of the medieval church, which was part of one of the earliest Irish monasteries founded by St Palladius during the fifth century. Scriptural illustrations on the cross feature Daniel in the lions den, and the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Old Kilcullen

Located amid the ruins of a Romanesque church, close by a 30 feet tall round tower on the original site of an early fifth century monastery, founded by St Patrick, the sculptures of Old Kilcullen in County Kildare comprise the remains of three high crosses. Biblical carvings feature the twelve apostles and some indistinct scenes from the Old Testament. An effigy of St Mac Tail, one of the first bishops of the monastery, is also visible.



The two granite High Crosses at Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, stand in the graveyard of Duiske Abbey, part of the Cistercian Order, founded in 1207. Both were re-erected on the site after being brought from Ballyogan in the Barrow valley and from Aghakiltawn. Their carvings include scenes from the Book of Genesis, the sacrifice of Isaac, and the Crucifixion of Christ. One cross also features a number of Celtic geometric designs.


The three ninth century sandstone High Crosses at Kilkieran, County Kilkenny, form part of the Ossory group of crosses, which also includes the nearby sculptures at Killamery and Kilree, and the Ahenny High Cross in County Tipperary. Carvings are principally Celtic interlace designs and patternwork, but also include indistinct illustrations of animals, notably horses.


The Celtic High Cross of Killamery in County Kilkenny, commonly known as the Snake-Dragon cross, is about 12 feet tall and stands in an old graveyard in Kilkenny. The site may have originally been that of a monastery, but no remains are visible. Carvings on the faces of the sculpture include: fret patterns, key patterns, a number of marigolds, snakes and an open mouthed dragon, Noah's Ark, details from the life of John the Baptist and the Crucifixion of Christ.


The ninth century sandstone High Cross at Kilree in County Kilkenny, stands on the site of a medieval monastery - whose round tower still survives - about 9 feet tall, and boasts a range of geometrical patterns and bosses. It also includes a number of weather-beaten relief sculptures including: the Adoration of the Magi and Daniel in the Lions den.


The weather-beaten Celtic Cross at Ullard, in County Kilkenny, is located behind a twelfth century Romanesque church. Barely discernible, the iconography of the sculpture includes: the Garden of Creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, Cain murdering Abel, six apostles (sculptures of the others may be lost), and the Crucifixion of Christ.



Located on the original site of a monastery, founded by Lughaidh in the late fifth century, the High Cross at Dromiskin in County Louth stands in the church graveyard not far from the surviving round tower. In fact, only the head of the cross is original, the base being a modern granite construction built just before Irish Independence. Carvings on the original sculpture include: some figurative scenes, including David and Goliath, together with numerous dragon like creatures.


The early Irish monastery at Monasterboice, County Louth, founded by Saint Buite in the late fifth / early sixth century, contains three sandstone High Crosses built in the ninth century, two of which are renowned as Celtic masterpieces of the medieval era. Standing not far from the well-preserved monastic round tower, they are known as The Cross of Muiredach, and the Tall Cross or West Cross.

The Cross of Muiredach is about 17 feet tall, and its iconography includes Christ being mocked by Roman soldiers during the crucifixion, as well as Old Testament scenes depicting Adam and Eve in the garden of Creation and Cain being killed by his brother Abel.

The Tall or West Cross is about 23 feet in height which makes it the tallest high cross in Ireland. Because of this, it has space for a considerable amount of biblical sculpture. Carvings on this High Cross include: Moses smiting the water, Samson bringing down the pillars of the temple, David and Goliath, Samuel anointing David, the Baptism of Christ, and Pilate washing his hands before the mob.