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This magnificent 8th century Celtic cross from
County Offaly, Ireland, depicts Christ in Majesty flanked by
trumpeting and adoring angels and the Lamb of God, with
additional Biblical scenes of Daniel and the Lion, David the
Harpist, Abraham and Isaac and a scene which seems to depict the
Trinity with the Word of God. In addition, there are four
Celtic knots and four spiralling bosses, perhaps symbolizing the
four Gospels. Durrow Monastery was founded in the 6th
century by St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland.
This monastery also created the Book of Durrow, a treasured
Celtic manuscript now housed in Trinity College, Dublin.
10" x 5"
greystone, red sandstone, Irish green
The east face of the 9th century Celtic high
cross depicts entwined serpents, Celtic symbol of healing, and
marigolds and triquetras in the shaft, both Christian motifs.
The four serpents, perhaps the four corners of the world or
the elements, are issuing forth from the mouth of a primeval
creature, the whole design possibly relating to resurrection and
rebirth. It is located in County Kilkenny, Ireland at the
scenic ruins of a monastery reputedly founded by St. Goban Find.
9" x 4"
greystone, Irish green
This impressive 9th c. Celtic cross from Kells Monastery, Cty.
Meath, is dedicated to the patron saints of Ireland, and depicts the
crucified and risen Christ, surrounded by the four Evangelists. It is
the only surviving cross to feature all four Evangelistic symbols: the
man for Matthew (the humanity of Christ), the lion for Mark (Christ's
resurrection), the ox for Luke (Christ's sacrifice), and the eagle for
John (Christ's divinity). The site of this cross housed for many centuries
another national treasure of Ireland, the Book of Kells, the
illuminated Gospel manuscript now in Trinity College, Dublin. Kells
Monastery was founded by St. Columba, a patron saint of Ireland and one of
the most important figures of the early Christian church.
10.5" x 4.75"
The famous 9th century Celtic cross of King Flann, High King of
Ireland, depicts St. Columba between two angels, the Last
Judgement, Christ with Peter and Paul and the founding of the
monastery with St. Ciaran and King Dermot.
11" x 5.25"
From an antique Irish decorative wood carving, the lion has long
been a symbol associated with royalty, courage and strength. Lions
are often placed at entranceways as guardians.
6.5" x 4.25"
walnut woodtone, greystone
Considered the finest Early Christian cross
slab in Ireland, this 8th century artifact is found in the ruins
of the monastery founded by St. Berichter in County Cork.
The cross consists of a labyrinth of key patterns and
several bosses and has been compared to metal processional
crosses as the possible inspiration for this kind of design in
7.25" x 4.75"
greystone, Irish green
The 7th century Celtic interlace cross from the
Fahan churchyard in County Donegal, Ireland, is thought to be one
of the earliest versions of the famous Celtic sun cross designs
in Ireland. On the opposite side of the cross is the only
Greek inscription found from early Christian Ireland reading
"Glory and honour to the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit". A monastery was founded here by St. Colmcille
in the 7th century which survived for 500 years.
7" x 4"
greystone, Irish green
The Gallen Priory cross, carved in high relief
proud of a stone slab, is one the most unique designs on an Irish
cross. It depicts two coiled creatures creating a central
spiral and issuing forth three faces and one standing figure, all
with enigmatic, stylized features that are uniquely Celtic in the
large eyes and pointed chin. These four heads might have
symbolized the elements or the corners of the world. Four
outer points with a center is also the design of every cross
which mirrors the five original provinces of Ireland and was thus
a mystical and important concept to the early Celts. This
8th century ringed cross is from County Offaly, Ireland.
7.5" x 4"
The cat is based on a carving on the fabulous
12th century door of Clonfert Cathedral, Cty. Galway, Ireland.
This door is the finest surviving example of
Hiberno-Romanesque architecture and sculpture, vying only with
the carvings in Tuam Cathedral, also in Galway. Clonfert is
the foundation of the monastery of St. Brendan, patron saint of
travellers and sailors. Along with this single carving of a
cat, many other beasts and heads guard the church. In
various Celtic beliefs the cat has supernatural powers and is
used in divination.
5.5" x 3.75"
The ancient Irish cross from Carndonagh, Cty. Donegal, shows Christ
in Majesty and pilgrims beneath interlace woven as the Tree of
Life. The knotwork was traditionally a protection device and is
similar to the St. Brigid's crosses woven out of rushes. Patrick
is one of the patron saints of Ireland. A native Briton, he was
captured and served as a slave in the western part of Ireland.
After his escape from slavery, he returned to his native Britain,
returning to Ireland after being told in a dream to return and
preach Chrisitianity to the Irish.
10.25" x 4.25"
The claddagh is the Irish marriage symbol with the heart symbolizing love, life's
purest impulse, the hands of friendship clasped around the heart, coming together to
nurture and protect. The crown is symbolic of loyalty, representing love's endurance throughout
8.5" x 5.75"
This remarkable 7th century inscribed stone was
found on a remote island in County Mayo, Ireland. It was
discovered on Bailey Mor, a large mound 500 feet in diameter and
60 feet high on which ancient monastic beehive huts and small
square houses were found. Depictions of the crucifixion in
this Early Christian period are very rare, especially showing
Christ with an Eastern-style loincloth as opposed to the robed
figure more regularly found in Irish art.
6" x 4"
The symbol of life and energy, also associated
with abundance and prosperity, is carved inside the 5000 year-old
Newgrange passage mound in County Meath, Ireland. Earth
works such as Newgrange have been proven to be ancient solar
observatories, whose construction can be said to symbolize the
womb of the Goddess. At Newgrange, the male solar deity in
the form of light, penetrates the interior of the mound through a
long tunnel once a year at the winter solstice. The concept
of triplism takes many forms in different cultures, the three
faces of the Goddess, maiden, mother and crone; the Trinity; and
many Celtic gods and goddesses such as Brigid, Macha and the
three sons of Uisnech also take on a triple aspect.
6.25" x 5"
This charming 9th century high cross from Co.
Kildare, Ireland, depicts Adam and Eve, the Temptation of St.
Anthony, Abraham and Isaac, David the Harpist, Daniel and the
Lions, the Persecution of St. Simon Magus and the Pilgrims on the
Way to Emmaus. The specific iconography of this cross
betrays the close ties of the Celtic monks to Eastern and
eremitic roots, as these scenes are dear to the more ascetic,
less hierarchical nature of the Eastern (as opposed to Roman) and
Celtic churches. Celtic scripture crosses such as these were
erected for many reasons, as preaching and teaching posts in lieu
of church structures, as monuments to the glory of God, as
monastic boundary and protection devices and as memorials to
specific individuals, living and legendary. Two high
crosses survive here at Castledermot, known as the North and
8" x 4.5"
The 9th century south cross
of Castledermot depicts a winding labyrinth pattern known as
"Thor's hammer" and intertwined spirals inside a
traditional Celtic sun cross. A monastery was founded here by St.
Dermot and a Viking presence in the area was strong. The cross is
located in County Kildare, Ireland. Cormac Mac Cuilleannain,
famous king of Cashel, was buried here after being killed in
12.5" x 5.5"
This design is based on a carpet page from the
Book of Durrow, a 7th century Celtic manuscript created at Durrow
Monastery in County Offaly, Ireland. Durrow was founded by
St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland. The
design features a central cross and three circles, perhaps
symbolizing the Trinity, amongst Celtic knotwork. The
monastery also created the beautiful scripture cross which is
still on site. The book is now housed at Trinity College,
Dublin, but was at one time used by local farmers who believed in
its magical power to heal cattle and hence dipped the manuscript
in the cattle water!
6.5" x 6.5"
Irish green, blue, antique brown
Taken from the famous 11th century church in
Kilpeck, England, this Celtic Goddess figure is thought to have
served both as a fertility symbol, a goddess related to death and
rebirth and a protector against evil spirits.
7" x 5"
From the amazing collection of images in
Millstatt monastery, Austria, where Celtic mythological themes
are evident, from the Celtic stylization of the faces, to the
inclusion of knotwork and specific Celtic myths and figures on
the pillars in the remarkably well-preserved atrium. The
city itself is named after the Celtic creation god, Mil, as it
translates literally, "City of Mil." The moon and the
sun figure prominently as Celtic motifs, as decorations on torcs
and as specific deities. In this case, the sun, moon and
stars watch Millstatt monastery being given into the hands of
Christ by its founder and are struck dumb (literally, they have
no mouths) by this pious act. Could this be an unconscious
reference to the silencing of the ancient pagan beliefs? If so,
these beliefs certainly speak loudly in the atrium with its
giant, Celtic knotwork and an unusual scene of two men arising
from the waves which must depict the two sons of Mil arising from
the Great Flood of Noah (a typical amalgam of pagan and Christian
tradition). There is even an 8th century cross slab on
location with interlaced cross, Celtic triquetras and palm leaves
(tree of life symbols) flanking it.
7.75" x 4.75"
An enigmatic face peers through the rays of the
sun, carved in the Austrian medieval monastery where symbols such
as this indicate survival of Celtic art style in an area where
Celts originated 2000 years before the 11th century date of these
carvings (see Millstatt MOON and THE LOVERS).
5.5" x 5.5"
A charming early medieval carving inside
Millstatt monastery in Austria, these lovers may represent
Tristan and Isolde, the popular Celtic pair famous throughout
Europe. The tale of Tristan and Isolde was the most sung
ballad and repeated tale of medieval times, and is the classic
legend of star-crossed lovers that has been remade over the ages.
In this story, the nephew Tristan of Cornish King Mark is
sent to Ireland to escort Isolde to her royal betrothed but
Tristan and Isolde take the love potion intended for King Mark
and are forever bound in love. Various escapades ensue but
ultimately, through the vengeance of the king, Isolde believes
Tristan dead and throws herself off the cliffs, at which Tristan
himself commits suicide, unwilling to live without her but
reaching her side before they both die.
11.5" x 9"
This charming little gargoyle is carved over
the Hiberno-Romanesque arch at Clonmacnois Abbey, Ireland.
Gargoyles were believed to protect churches from evil spirits and
according to Celtic belief, the more heads the better. This
two-headed dragon guards both front and back.
7" x 4.25"
Legend says this cross was woven by the patron
saint of Ireland to explain the Passion. Its heritage
extends to the Neolithic Age when it symbolized the four seasons.
It is now hung over Irish doorways to protect home and hearth.
It is also related to the symbol of the "turning
wheel" which symbolized the movement of the sun and is a
design seen on Celtic crosses.
8" x 8"
Irish green, walnut brown
From the windswept Dingle Peninsula in Cty.
Kerry, Ireland, this simple yet powerful testament to
Christianity includes the inscription, "DNE", Domine
meaning Lord. If it is looked at in the landscape in which
it was carved, one notices that the upper portion of the monument
mirrors the horizon line, indicating an attempt to merge the
monument with the surrounding landscape.
10.5" x 3.5"
A 15th century carving of the patron saint of
Ireland from Cty. Louth. Patrick, a Roman enslaved British
nobleman who Christianized 5th century Ireland, was also her
greatest champion and the first on record to oppose slavery.
This deeply symbolic endless knotwork cross
consisting of four triquetras, is from the 12th c. St. Saviour's
Priory, Cty. Wicklow, Ireland, where St. Kevin's monastery was
5.5" x 5.5"
greystone, Irish green
Carved on the pediment of an ancient temple by
native Celts under Roman rule, the Gorgon is primarily a Celtic
solar symbol under the guise of a Roman symbol, a male version of
the snake-haired Medusa. It is specifically located at what
were the sacred springs of the goddess Sulis, in Bath, England.
As it was placed, the Gorgon served as a guardian as was
traditional in Celtic sites while at the same time being
acceptable as a Roman deity. The style of the carving marks
it as distinctly Celtic as does the inclusion of the snakes,
itself an important Celtic animal, related to water, regeneration
and rebirth which all tie into its location at thermal waters.
7.5" x 7.5"
The 1st century B.C. ritual cauldron was found in the Danish bogs and depicts Cernunnos, Celtic god of the hunt, with animal symbols of power, magic and fertility. It is an extremely important artifact in deciphering many aspects of Celtic mythology. This is the most commented upon panel of the cauldron in that it includes many intriguing hints about Celtic beliefs, not the least being the inclusion of Cernunnos, the antler-headed god. The depiction of the stag god is so prevalent in artifacts throughout the Celtic world that Cernunnos appears to have been the main Celtic deity. The shape-shifting aspect of Cernunnos in appearing as half man - half beast is certainly important and there are indeed many tales of changing shapes in Celtic mythology. He occupies space here as Lord of the Animals, being the only forward facing relief on the panel.
The other animals are also interesting from a mythological standpoint, especially the ram-headed serpent held in Cernunnos' hand (the other holding a Celtic torc, symbol of kingship). The horned serpent is a purely Celtic manifestation found in as far flung locations as prehistoric artifacts in Halstatt, Austria to horned serpent armlets in Scotland.
Also depicted are a stag, a wolf, two fighting lions, ibises and a boar. The stag could suggest, like another panel on the cauldron where a god holds two stags in his hands, the god's mastery over his animal nature. The wolf is also found on Celtic art and the boar is considered an important Celtic symbol of war. The ibises are a Middle Eastern motif and the lions look decidedly Oriental.
It is believed that the cauldron was commissioned by a Celtic tribe as a war offering and thrown in the bogs as an offering to the Gods. In the Celtic belief system, a great deal of power and magic was to be found in bogs and around water and therefore much religious activity, including both offerings and human sacrifices surrounded these places.
12.5" x 6"
This 15th century
carving from Cornwall is a prevalent
Celtic image going back to pre-Christian Celtic
Europe. Several tri-cephalic images have survived in
Cornwall and the surrounding area but
are rare in Britain. As Celts mixed
with Romans, the triple head was
associated with Mercury, the god of
prosperity. Many Celtic gods and
goddesses existed as a triad. The
head itself was greatly revered by the
Celts as the seat of the life force
and in mythology the severed head had
powers of prophecy. The number three
had magico-religious significance and
bestowed great power in many
10" x 6"
This historically important 9th century bible cover from
Rinnagan, Cty. Roscommon, Ireland, shows strongly Celtic elements
in Christ's face and robe of triple spirals and knotwork. The
original is housed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
9" x 6"
Located in 12th c. Clonfert Cathedral where St. Brendan's
monastery was founded in the 6th century. St. Brendan is the patron saint of
travelers and sailors and is said to have converted the mermaids and sea serpents to
Christianity, hence their appearance at the altar of this beautiful Hiberno-Romanesque
church. St. Brendan is even reputed to have sailed to the New World in his little ship.
The mermaid is also a symbol related to women and the Goddess. This charming
and enigmatic example holds the mirror and comb which were typical feminine symbols
associated with mermaids.
8" x 6"
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