The Celtic Cross of Monasterboice
- 27mm High and 12mm Wide.
- Available in White Gold and Yellow Gold.
- Come With 18 Inch Chain.
- Double sided Cross Engraving
- Handmade in Ireland
- Hallmarked at the Assay Office at Dublin Castle
The Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice in Co. Louth is one of the most beautiful of the Irish High Crosses still standing. At the base of the West side can still be seen the inscription in Irish, OR DO MUIREDACH LASNDERNAD IN CHROS“, which when translated reads A prayer for Muiredach, for whom this cross was made. Most scholars think that this applied to Muiredach, son of Domhaill, an abbot of Monasterboice who died about AD922.
The main sculpture on the circular head on the west face is an elaborate Crucifixion scene while on the eastern face there is an even more interesting and elaborate Last Judgement. The face of the shaft on the west side shows incidents in the Life of our Lord, incidents from the Old Testament, stories from the lives of the Saints and symbolic figures. However, the scenes on our High crosses are not confined to biblical and religious subjects only and there are scenes on the Muiredach Cross that are open to different interpretations. The scenes on the shaft of the cross are read from the bottom up. These are said to represent Christ seized in the Garden; The Incredulity of Thomas is said to be thrusting his hand into Our Lord’s side; and Christ seated between Peter and Paul, giving the keys to the one and The Book of the Gospel to the other.
A very different interpretation has also been suggested, particularly by the late Mr. Henry Morris. This interpretation would see the panel as representing two Viking soldiers and suggests that the central figure is the Celtic Abbot whom they are seizing roughly. Above, the same two men with the Viking moustaches are shown, but now they are wearing ecclesiastical robes, while the central figure, clean shaven and with a coronal tonsure as before, has his hand raised in blessing. At the top, all three ecclesiastics are wearing Viking moustaches, and they have the Keys and the Book of Gospels. those who read the panels this way say they tell the story of the encounter of the Abbot with the Viking invaders, the latter’s eventual conversion to Christianity and indeed acceptance as monks at Monasterboice, and finally the time when one of their number became the Abbot of the monastery.
There is some historical support for this theory. One of the first permanent Viking settlements, a fortified stronghold, was made eight miles from Monasterboice at Annagassan on the Louth coast in AD 840. It is recorded that from there the Vikings plundered Clonmacnoise in the west in 841 and Armagh in the North in 850. Yet Monasterboice, a couple of hours march away, was never plundered by them. They remained at Annagassan until 925 and must have had contact with the monastery. If indeed some of their number became Christians and then Monks, then Monasterboice’s immunity from attack is explained. There is also evidence in the Cross itself that the more usual Scriptural explanation of these three panels is unsatisfactory. While one could accept that the artist might well show Roman soldiers carrying the weapons of and looking like the dreaded Viking soldiers, it seems odd to give St. Thomas a Viking moustache. Also if this panel is showing doubting Thomas, then Thomas appears to be putting his hand into a wound on our Lord’s right side, but in the Crucifixion scene, on the circular head above, our Lord is shown receiving the wound on his left side. These are small inconsistencies that could have other explanations, but if the story of the viking converts is accepted the inconsistencies disappear altogether.