Irish High Crosses


The Monastery at Kells was founded in 804 by monks from St Colmcille's, Iona. As well as the Book of Kells, finished here around the 9th century, the monastery is famous for it's Round Tower and High Crosses.

The Cross of St Patrick and St Columba, also known as the South Cross, east face pictured on the right, stands around 3.30 metres high and was erected in the 9 th century. On the East face you can see Adam and Eve and Cain slaying Abel, above that is The Three Children in the Furnace and above that Daniel in the Lions' Den.

Above is a detail of the three children in the fiery furnace. This is the oldest of the five Crosses in Kells

The West Cross, or Ruined Cross, which stands at the west end of the graveyard , must of been a very fine High Cross, it has some beautifully inscribed decorative panels on it's north and south sides, some details are shown below.

The west side has some scenes from the Bible, including Adam and Eve, and the Israelites returning to the promised land. The East side, pictured left, has many scenes, such as The Marriage feast of Cana, Christs Baptism, and Christ entering Jerusalem. The cross was probably erected in the 10 th century. The damage to the cross was done by Oliver Cromwells soldiers.

The East or Unfinished Cross, pictured right, gives us an insight into how these High Crosses were constructed, the actual carving being done on site and the various segments of the Crosses are clearly visable.

You can see from the detail above, that they had started to carve an intricate key design on the underside of the Ring.

Probably the most famous of the high crosses in Kells is the Market Cross, east face pictured on the left, this is a sandstone cross standing at 3.35 metres high. The cross has been moved on several occasions, It's present location is outside the Heritage Centre in Kells. At the centre of the head, east face, is Daniel in the lions den to the left, the sacrifice of Isaac, to the right the temptation of St Anthony, immediately below Daniel is David with lyre, below that Adam and Eve, left and Cain Slaying Abel right. The base shows four horsemen with shields, above that are spirals and above that is Christ in the tomb. The large iconographic in the centre of the shaft is open to interpretation, is it Christ, David or Goliath. The west face bears the Crucifixion on the head, below that the Loaves and Fishes, the left of the head may represent St Anthony tempted by a woman ? On the base is Scene depicting a Deer hunt or a man herding animals. To view west face run mouse over image. The North and South sides of the cross also bear iconography. The North base features Birds animals and Centaurs, the South base a Battle scene.

Base North side-

-Base South side

All that remains of The North Cross is the base pictured on the right, but judging by it's size the cross would not have been as tall as the other crosses in Kells.

Previous---Crosses Home---Next---Megalithic Ireland --Links