If you’ve ever driven around Ireland, you probably noticed two things. First, it’s insanely dangerous to take your eyes off the winding roads to look at the amazing scenery. Second, if you were smart enough to fob the driving off on someone else so you can see the amazing scenery, you will rewarded with the occasional sight of a traditional Irish high cross, also known as a Celtic cross. You will see gravestones in the form of a high cross, and you will also see the actual, historic and hauntingly beautiful ancient high crosses at ruins dotted throughout the country. Seeing the real deal may make you look twice at Irish high cross pendants and wonder about the meaning of the distinctive Celtic cross.
While there is infinite variety in Irish high crosses, there are some common features that set them apart from other styles of crosses. Being Irish, they don’t all like to conform to rules so you’ll find plenty of exceptions, but basically their most defining traits are the ring circling the centre of the cross and the ornate designs carved into them. The ends of the four arms of the cross are often flared a bit wider, and they are usually set on a base. You’ll know them when you see them, whether it’s a towering stone version at a monastic ruin or a stunning silver one on your neck.
The body of an Irish high cross is highly decorated with intricate designs. Knot work is a common and somewhat cryptic design. Some knots, such as the trinity knot have clear meaning. (It represents the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) Other knot designs are shrouded in mystery. Zoomorphic animal designs like those in the Book of Kells, which frequently feature people and animals with their limbs knotted in elaborate designs, are also popular, and very often the design on a Celtic cross represents a Biblical scene.
The Celtic crosses scattered across Ireland date back to the 8th century. While mainland Europe was stumbling through the Dark Ages, Ireland was blooming. Ireland’s Golden Age coincided with the mainland’s Dark Ages, and while the continentals were dealing with the fall out of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Irish were busily creating the artwork that is now one of the most recognized symbols of our culture, specifically the Irish high cross.
While you cannot sneak one of these tall stone crosses into your bag and head home, you can have one. They are among the most popular symbols in Irish jewellery, and no matter what your taste or budget, you can find one that is just right for you because of the enormous variety of styles available. One popular option is to combine two of Ireland’s most beloved symbols into one delightful design – the Celtic cross featuring the Claddagh symbol of hands, heart and crown.
Shanore is happy to present our range of Celtic cross pendants. From the simple and elegant silver Claddagh cross to the larger, ornate emerald set Celtic knot design pendant, we offer something beautiful for everyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of Ireland’s golden age in jewellery.
The high cross is a quintessential symbol of Ireland. They call to mind Ireland’s incredibly rich blend of the spiritual and artistic in our monastic history. Standing before a towering stone cross dating back so many centuries, you can fully appreciate the power of the intensely detailed design and the majesty of its proportions; it is obvious why this is called the land of saints and scholars.