Irish Crosses (8th-10th centuries)

The quality of stone-carving fostered by the early Irish monasteries was among the finest in Pre-Romanesque Europe. By the 10th century, if not long before, such major monasteries as Clonmacnois, Kells, Monasterboice, and Armagh were equipped with well-modelled 'scripture crosses', placed at various points around their precincts. This development was remarkable given that Irish craftsmen, unlike those in other countries, had no experience of Roman sculpture on which to base their work. Patronage was concentrated on pillar stones and monumental crosses, but stone sculptors also manufactured hundreds of recumbent grave-slabs.

By the 8th or 9th century the free-standing cross had appeared, constructed of carefully shaped blocks, with designs cut vigorously in relief.

It is generally presumed that those crosses decorated principally with abstract designs, such as at Ahenny and a group at Clonmacnois (c. 800), preceded those with figure sculpture, but this is far from certain. Almost all crosses include some ornamental panels, and popular designs include spirals, whorls, bosses, interlace, a variety of animals, entangled humans, frets, and foliage scrolls. At Monasterboice and Ahenny these patterns were executed with breathtaking precision. Many designs were derived from manuscripts and metalwork, and the methods of the goldsmiths (e.g. rivets, bosses, and chip-carving) were reproduced unaltered in stone.

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Ahenny High Crosses
8th century
Stone
Kilclispeen Graveyard, Ahenny, County Tipperary

1100*688
True Color
116 Kb



Ahenny High Crosses
8th century
Stone
Kilclispeen Graveyard, Ahenny, County Tipperary

800*591
True Color
62 Kb



Ahenny High Cross
8th century
Stone
Kilclispeen Graveyard, Ahenny, County Tipperary

778*1100
True Color
240 Kb



North Cross
c. 800
Stone
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

1300*1204
True Color
249 Kb



North Cross
c. 800
Stone
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

713*950
True Color
242 Kb



South Cross
c. 800
Stone, height 2.7 m
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

825*1100
True Color
154 Kb



Cross of Scriptures
10th century
Stone
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

1064*1600
True Color
233 Kb



Cross of Scriptures
10th century
Stone
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly

1100*733
True Color
105 Kb



Moone High Cross
9th century
Granite
Abbey Graveyard, Moone, County Kildare

953*1400
True Color
245 Kb



Moone High Cross
9th century
Granite
Abbey Graveyard, Moone, County Kildare

1003*1200
True Color
245 Kb



Moone High Cross (detail)
9th century
Granite
Abbey Graveyard, Moone, County Kildare

818*950
True Color
250 Kb



Moone High Cross (detail)
9th century
Granite
Abbey Graveyard, Moone, County Kildare

772*1000
True Color
244 Kb



Muiredach's High Cross
900-20
Sandstone, height 5,8 m
Monasterboice, County Louth, Ireland

900*1100
True Color
133 Kb



Muiredach's High Cross
900-20
Sandstone, height 5,8 m
Monasterboice, County Louth, Ireland

1100*1022
True Color
228 Kb



Stone cross (detail)
10th century
Stone
Yorkshire Museums, Middleton

624*1100
True Color
120 Kb