|The Celtic High Crosses are probably the most important
achievement in the entire
history of Irish Sculpture. From the earliest days of Irish Christianity, crosses had
been set in slabs as symbols of the faith and erected in monastic settlements. Their
design is believed to derive from combining the sun, which was the pagan symbol
of worship in Ireland, and the Christian cross. The crosses feature a large stone circle
intersecting the arms and the upright shaft. Early examples of the Celtic high cross
depicts abstract decorations, but by the 9th century it had developed to depict elaborate
figured scriptural scenes. The abstract geometric ornament on the shaft and rings is
derived from earlier metalwork; the ornamental studs and cylindrical angle moldings
are clear copies of metal executed in stone.
Figured sculpture later became a major element of Celtic High Crosses. Early
crosses included hunting scenes at the crosses base. Later crosses from the 12th
century were transitional in that they were abstract ornamental and included scenes
of Christ's crucifixion and a number of biblical scenes. This is also a period when
the Romanesque style prevailed in Ireland.
The scriptural high crosses have coherent religious themes based on the Old and
New Testaments. Usually there is a crucifixion scene on the New Testament side
and a scene of last judgement on the Old Testament side. Later crosses were
designed with Celtic weave patterns. Celtic weave patterns were unique in that they
represented different family clans.