About sixty mysterious crosses with a circle superimposed on them, created before the middle of the XII century, can still be seen over the vast territory of Ireland. Also, such crosses dot thousands of cemeteries not only on the island, but also in England, Wales, Scotland, Europe and other most unpredictable places. The most famous and recognizable symbol of Ireland, the Celtic cross, still disturbs the minds with its mystery and multiple interpretations.
History and Origins
Why Celtic and why is Ireland constantly mentioned along with it? It’s simple: the oldest pieces in the largest quantities were found there. Historians have long believed that the Irish are the descendants of the ancient tribes of the Celts who came to the island from the center of Europe. And now when we say Celts we mean Irish. Of course, the cross was discovered not only in Ireland, but also in England and Scotland. But the primacy in quantity remained with Ireland. Hence the name.
Often called the cross of St. Columbus, it originally served as a guide to sacred places such as cemeteries, churches and monasteries. This symbol began to be depicted in Ireland around the 7th century and for many centuries, with the help of monks, it was actively installed throughout the country.
There is an opinion that such crosses were used as tombstones, but it is wrong. Only from the middle of the 19th century, the Irish who moved to a foreign land began to depict Celtic crosses on tombstones, showing everyone their origin. That is why we can see this symbol in the most remote corners of the world.
Meaning and Symbolism
The Celtic cross is a cross with equal rays, enclosed in a circle. The rays can slightly protrude outside the circle. Sometimes a Celtic ornament is located along the cross and in a circle. Although this form of the cross is inherent in many ancient peoples, including the Slavs, the cross in a circle is firmly established in the minds of people as Celtic.
The Christian interpretation of the cross is simple: the circle means eternity and union, and the cross itself means the love and sacrifice. It is difficult to say how the ancient Celts themselves interpreted this symbol: there is no information about this. But historians suggest that the cross as understood by the ancient Celts could symbolize fertility, abundance, and protection. It is also called the solar symbol because its facets suggest the unity of earth, air, sun and water.
Nowadays, the Celtic cross is worn by both Christians and pagans: it is not tied to a particular religion, and different denominations perceive it as a symbol of their spiritual views.
Today the Celtic cross can be found not only in cemeteries and architecture, but generally everywhere in Ireland. Souvenirs, advertising, clothing, key-rings have become an excellent foundation for displaying the famous Irish symbol. And the number of jewelry with a Celtic cross is generally a separate topic for discussion. Celtic cross necklaces, pendants, bracelets, brooches and charms made of sterling silver, gold and even wood are sold in a huge assortment for every taste.
Many pieces of jewelry are made with different stones, allowing the manufacturer to customize the selection for specific people who prefer individual minerals. Sometimes the cross decoration is complemented by other Celtic designs such as triquetra, triscele and Celtic knot-work, which make them more intricate and interesting. Celtic crosses can also be single or double-sided. Modest and minimalistic, rich and luxurious – everyone can choose what they like best.