The Celtic Cross is well-known around the globe as a sign of Irish ancestry and tradition.
Learn more about the distinguishing characteristics, origin, history, applications, symbolism, and significance of these amazing stone monuments by reading the information posted below.
Celtic Crosses are a common sight in the Irish countryside.
On any road drive through the gorgeous Irish countryside, you are certain to come upon a Celtic stone cross somewhere along the way. Celtic crosses may be found in practically every one of Ireland’s 32 counties, and they are considered to be symbols of Ireland and its Irish culture. Beautiful Celtic cross jewelry and other creative arts from both the ancient and current periods have been created to honor these wonderful stone crosses.
The Celtic Cross Has Four Distinctive Characteristics
It is believed that the earliest remaining “high” stone crosses in Ireland date back to the 8th or 12th centuries. The crosses themselves are frequently ornately carved, with the oldest crosses exhibiting knotwork and subsequent crosses adding images from biblical tales and inscriptions, among other things.
Their presence in the Irish countryside is both spectacular and intimidating. Early crosses are around eight feet tall, with some later crosses being even higher than that. At an impressive 23 feet in height, the very tallest stands out. There are several distinguishing characteristics of these ancient Celtic Crosses, despite their wide range of appearance, including the following:
- The base, which isn’t always available. The cross is usually carved into a pyramid form, however this is not always the case.
- In the Shaft, detailed decorations or artwork portraying people are frequently shown in panels that are separated onto all four sides by this divider.
- The Cap is usually seen at the very top of the cross’s upper arm, but may be absent altogether.
- The Head which is made up of two parts, the center and the limbs. There’s a characteristic ring form on the top of most stone Celtic crosses.
Understanding the Celtic Cross Meaning and Its Symbolism
Many people believe that the form of the cross’s head is what distinguishes it as a Celtic cross from other types of crosses. The cross’s structural strength is provided by the ring form, which also serves to support the arms of the cross. The fact that this shape was necessary for earlier, more fragile wooden crosses has led some researchers to believe that it is a continuance of that design.
Various theories have been advanced about the meaning of the ring, such that it portrays a halo or disc form around the head, and that it represents a heavenly sphere, such as the sun, as represented in a 5th century Christian poem Carmen Paschale. Those who believe that the ring and “rivet” shaped carvings on certain early crosses depict the Celtic Shield are among those who disagree. This would combine Christian and Celtic iconography, a strategy that was used by St. Patrick himself, along with early missionaries of the Catholic Church, in their efforts to persuade the Celts towards Christian belief and practices.
It has been suggested by some historians that the fundamental design of these crosses may have been modeled by trees, which the Celts venerated. Early Christian missionaries who arrived in Ireland in the 5th century would have wanted to avoid upsetting the pagan Celts who had been there for thousands of years. By combining significant Christian iconography such as the cross and halo with significant Celtic iconography such as trees and the sun, this new ideology would have been more ‘friendly’ and agreeable, supposedly making it very easy to convert!
What was the purpose of the Celtic Cross?
No one knows for certain why ancient humans began creating such massive stone structures in the first place! What is known is that High Crosses or Celtic Crosses are generally found in or near significant monasteries, which is why they are named such.
There is a possibility that they were used to delineate borders or particular areas inside the monastery, with many of them being used for lecturing, learning scriptures, prayer, and penance. The far more ornately carved crosses would have also served as a symbol of the monastery’s riches and power. Many crosses are devoted to a particular event or patron, with some being attributed to notable saints such as St. Patrick or the Irish High Kings.
The Celtic Cross Has a Long and Profound History
The development of Irish stone crosses is supposed to have occurred from slab crosses.
Slab crosses, as the name implies, were simply large slabs of stone, generally granite, with crosses cut into the surface of them. Someone, perhaps in the 8th century, came up with the brilliant idea of chiseling away the parts between the cross’s arms, resulting in the creation of the first “Celtic Cross.” The Donagh Cross, also known as St. Patrick’s Cross, is located near Carndonagh, Donegal, and is believed to be one of the earliest free-standing stone crosses still standing in Ireland. A church or monastery is said to have been established here in the fifth century by Saint Patrick and Irish missionaries, according to local legend.
St. Patrick’s Cross is wonderfully ornamented with Christian imagery as well as Celtic artwork, suggesting that it was constructed very recently. This design comprises interlacing knotwork patterns that are comparable to those found in The Book of Durrow, which represent the Tree of Life. Christian iconography displays Jesus in a triumphant attitude near to the bottom of the crucifixion’s shaft, instead of suffering on the cross, which is supposed to represent eternal life in Christ, instead of having suffered on the cross.
The Celtic Cross Has Changed Over Time
Celtic “High” Crosses are standalone stone crosses that originate from the 8th to the 12th centuries. Most of the earliest crosses from this time period have arms that do not reach beyond the ring, with decorative patterns that are often portraying ancient pagan symbols and geometric motifs. Later crosses from this time are often bigger and adorned with biblical iconography. Because they became border or territory markers after the 12th century, they are now often alluded to as Celtic Crosses instead of “High crosses,” despite the fact that many of them are indeed extremely tall!
During the “Celtic Revival,” finely carved crosses and a reintroduction with geometric patterns were popular ways to denote graves and monuments in the 18th Century. Any Irish person worth their weight would absolutely not go anywhere without a Celtic Cross visible on his or her person! Since then, the Celtic Cross as a symbol has spread farther than monastic sites and graveyards, appearing on contemporary emblems, clothing, accessories, tattoo designs, and, of course, Celtic jewelry. The Celtic cross necklace has become widely recognized throughout the entire globe as a symbol of Ireland and its people.
The Irish Jewelry Company offers Celtic Cross Pendants in a variety of designs.
We at The Irish Jewelry Company are inspired by the complicated history and gorgeous symbolism of the standing stone crosses of Ireland, and our Celtic Cross pendants and necklaces reflect this inspiration by faithfully replicating Silver Cross Necklaces and Gold Celtic Cross Necklaces with elaborate carvings from ancient Irish high crosses. These crosses are chosen to wear with pride by individuals all over the globe who have a strong admiration for Irish culture. Our silver crosses to complement men, women, as well as children, we have created pieces that will appeal to a wide range of interests and preferences.