Irish Traditions

Origins of the Celtic cross

celtic crossIrish folklore credits St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland as having introduced the Celtic cross to the pagan Irish.  The Celtic cross also known at the Ionic cross originated with the pagan Irish “Solar” cross. The solar cross or more commonly known sun cross or wheel cross, is a cross that is totally inside a circle. The sun cross is an ancient Celtic symbol frequently found in prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. Legends say that St. Patrick combine the elements of the Christian cross with that of the sun or solar cross and created the Celtic cross. St. Patrick did this to help the pagan Irish relate to the Christian cross symbol and to help them make a connection with its importance to that of the life giving elements of the sun cross.

In Ireland many fine examples of Celtic cross statues still exist today. These free-standing, upright Celtic crosses (or High Crosses) were originally sculpted and erected by Irish monks as early as the seventh century. Many of these magnificent high crosses or Celtic crosses still bear ancient runic inscriptions. Some of the most famous surviving examples of these standing crosses or high crosses in Ireland are the Cross of Kells in County Meath, Ireland, Ardboe Auld Cross in Ardboe County Tyrone, and the Cross of the Scriptures in Clonmacnoise, Ireland.

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