Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
Today we are in County Tipperary, and I’m going to take you on a short stroll to see not one – but two of the finest high crosses in Ireland.
Let’s park our car in the tiny hamlet of Ahenny . It is located way off the beaten track, north of the town of Clonmel. Now, Ahenny is situated close to the border dividing counties Tipperary and Kilkenny and nestles on the slopes of Carrigadoon Hill overlooking the valley of the river Lingaun . Not far away there are a number of megalithic tombs that dot the landscape as this was part of the ancient kingdom of Ossory.
Off we go – first we will pass through the little kissing gate at the side of the road and stroll down through the meadow to the ancient monastic site of Kilclispeen. As you can see it’s a lovely day with blue skies and a few puffy clouds overhead . As we go along, we can see that there is a route through the long grass which has been freshly mowed – what a lovely walk in the countryside !!
Once inside the enclosure we can see many gravestones that date back centuries but standing tall are the impressive high crosses that date from the 8th century.
Let’s take a closer look at the incredible detail and carving. We are told that these two crosses imitate the earlier wooden crosses which were encased with a metal binding. The stone bosses imitate the studs which would have covered the rivets that held the metal and wooden crosses together. It’s said that there are amongst the earliest of the ringed design of Celtic cross – the ring is said to symbolise the old sun worship and is transition to Christianity.
The crosses are not that tall. One stands at 3.13 metres ( a little over 10 feet ) ) and the other at 3.9 metres ( 13 feet ) . Both are made from sandstone and are quite eroded. These crosses reproduce in stone what would have been patterns in the earlier wooden crosses, complete with patterns that mimic the metalwork that held the wooden cross together. While later high crosses concentrated on biblical scenes, these earlier crosses carried intricate interlace designs on almost every surface. Only the bases carry any panels with figure carving which is considerably worn and difficult to make out.
Many interpretations of these carvings have been proposed. The north cross base is said to carry scenes of a procession with a chariot, a funeral procession with a cleric holding a processional cross, Adam naming the animals and the mission of the apostles . The base of the south cross is worn beyond most recognition. An unusual feature of these crosses are the removable cap stones known as mitres – or bishops’ hats. Can you see that the ring is broken on the north cross – but the rest of the cross is still intact, what a great tribute to the makers of this monument over 1200 years ago !
Let’s take a closer look at the complex and geometric Celtic knotwork . As I mentioned already every surface is covered with these endless loops, patterns and amazing designs. We could spend hours tracing the lines and running our fingers over the carvings – it’s like stepping back in time. You will recognise some of the designs that are uses in today’s jewellery – and now we can actually touch the source of this inspiration .
We retrace our steps through the field and past the lush tall grass – in fact this part of Ireland is known as the “ Golden Vale “ as its famed for its rich pasture they yields the finest beef and richest of milk, cream and butter.
Time to go, I do hope that you enjoyed todays stroll and got to touch a little slice of Irelands living history. We have a wonderful selection of Connemara Marble Celtic Cross Jewelry here on my website – handcrafted with genuine Connemara Marble and Irish Sterling Silver. A true piece of Ireland.
Take care until next time, Stephen
#celtic cross jewelry