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Subject: Re: celtic crosses
From: Janet Wallwork <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date:Fri, 9 Sep 1994 10:58:24 GMT

text/plain (40 lines)

re:- the origins of the Celtic Cross:
There is a thought-provoking article by Walter Horn "On the origin of
the Celtic Cross: a new interpretation" as an Appendix to his  "The
forgotten hermitage of Skellig Michael", Berkeley, Univ.California
Press, 1989 (0520064100).
He looks at the encircled Chi-rho's (i.e. Greek X=chi R=rho) that you
see for example in the Roman mosaic at Lullingstone, Kent; these
start to appear on Irish carved stones, and gradually the chi-rho
begins to look like a cross with a small hook on the top of the upper
arm. Then you get crosses inside circles (i.e.Kilnasaggart, Armagh
where each arm has curled ends) and finally the cross arms start to
extend outside the circle.
  He also illustrated Coptic examples - most notably a burial pall of
the 5-7th centuries, which clearly shows a free standing cross with a
wreath encircling the junction of the arms. Other encircled crosses
appear in Coptic art and in St.Sophia, Istambul. Considering the
eastern influences that appear in the Irish illuminated manuscripts,
it is quite possible these Coptic motifs could also have been known in
 In Ireland the incised crosses seem to develop into raised reliefs
carved on slabs (though dating these will always be immensely
It has been suggested that such examples as the slab at Fahan,
Co.Donegal was the forerunner of the free-standing cross. Walter Horn
also draws attention to the carving on one of the crosses at Ahenny,
Co.Tipperary, which show a procession where an ecclesiatic carries a
Celtic cross of perhaps 3-4 foot in length. Portable wooden crosses
may have pre-dated the free-standing stone cross.
Jnaet Wallwork
PS: If anyone can complete the reference to a book/article on Celtic
Crosses in Somerset that was mentioned, then I would be delighted to
have it; I don't know anything about Celtic crosses in that area.

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