10th century High Crosses Of Monasterboice explained.

West Face Of The High Cross http://www.stephenbernard.org

It is only a short drive from my home yet remains one of the biggest tourist attractions all year round. This is only one of the numerous well preserved 1100 year old High Crosses found in Ireland today. It was erected on the site of a monastery that housed two Churches and a round tower. In 1142 its status changed with the arrival of the Cistercian order. The Crosses were built as a means to honor and educate the illiterate on the Gospels. The Irish borrowed this feature from the Eastern Christian tradition of “writing” (not painting) icons. They prefer to use the term “writing” in the east when referring to icons because they are literally written depictions of each Biblical scene. Here we see the Irish taking a leaf out of the Eastern book of art through sculpture.

There are to faces to the Cross known as the West and Eastern face. I took some photographs of it this morning and I’m sharing these with you. Alongside each photograph, I will run through each scene giving a very brief overview of the scenes depicted on the Cross. This will be helpful should you ever decide to visit.

Eastern Face of The Cross
http://www.stephenbernard.org

EAST FACE, THE LAST JUDGMENT

The Last Judgement
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On the top you will see Christ being supported by angels. On the left side of the Cross is the blessed and they are turned towards Christ. On the right are the damned who are turned away from Christ. In the centre of the Cross is Christ in his Majesty. Below Christ is St.Michael weighing the souls on scales and the Devil below him pulling them down.

ADORATION OF THE MAGI

Adoration of The Magi
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MOSES STRIKING THE ROCK

Moses striking the rock
Copyright: http://www.stephenbernard.org

SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID

Scenes from the life of David
Copyright: http://www.stephenbernard.org

ADAM AND EVE, CAIN AND ABEL

Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel

TWO ANIMALS

Two animals
Copyright: http://www.stephenbernard.org

WEST FACE BEGINS WITH SCENE OF CRUCIFIXION

Crucifixion
Copyright: http://www.stephenbernard.org

Above Christ are three figures supposedly named Moses, Aaron and Hur. On the left are six figures that are anonymous. Maybe they are those in attendance of the Crucified Christ? To the right are the soldiers guarding the tomb and experiencing the resurrection of Christ. Below Christ are bosses and snakes. In the center is Christ crucified.

MISSION TO THE APOSTLES

Mission to the apostles.
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INCREDULITY OF ST.THOMAS

Incredulity of St.Thomas
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THE ARREST OF JESUS CHRIST

The Arrest of Jesus
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CATS AND INSCRIPTION

Cats and Inscription
http://www.stephenbernard.org

The inscription here reads, “Or Do Muiredach Lasndernad In Chros” which is to say a prayer for Muiredach whom it is is understood had the Cross made. The cats baffle me and I am unable to think about the theological significance behind their presence if any. It would be unusual for the early monks to put anything non-theological on the Cross.

Is it possible cats had some significant role to play in the spiritual life of an Irish Catholic perhaps borrowed from local superstition? I often wonder if paganism still had influence over the Irish populace back then and cats played a role in it? Was muiredach simply a lover of cats? There are so many questions you could throw at it. What are your thoughts? If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it on social media, and thank you for taking a look at my work.

God bless.

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