Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Killamery High Cross

Killamery high cross 1
Killamery High Cross, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Landscape Photography, Nigel Borrington

Killamery High Cross

Located in an old grave yard very near the county Kilkenny and Tipperary border, is one of the most impressive of the Irish High crosses. There was a unique early Medieval tradition in Ireland and Britain of raising large sculpted stone crosses, usually outdoors.

These probably developed from earlier traditions using wood, perhaps with metalwork attachments, and earlier pagan Celtic memorial stones; the Pictish stones of Scotland may also have influenced the form.

The earliest surviving examples seem to come from the territory of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, which had been converted to Christianity by Irish missionaries; it remains unclear whether the form first developed in Ireland or Britain.

The Killamery High Cross, is one of the western Ossory group of crosses. The cross stands at 3.65 metres high and the west face of the cross bears most of the figure sculpture. The east face pictured right, is decorated with three marigolds on the shaft and has a boss in the centre of the head surrounded by intertwining serpents with an open mouthed dragon above the boss.

The cross is known as the Snake-Dragon cross and has a gabled cap-stone and the narrow sides have double mouldings. At the end of the southern arm of the cross there is a panel depicting Noah in the Ark and the end of the northern arm features four scenes centered around John the Baptist. There is also a worn inscription on the base of the western side of the cross which is said to read as ‘OR DO MAELSECHNAILL’ a prayer for Maelsechnaill. Maelsechnaill was the High King of Ireland from 846 to 862.

The western face has a Sun Swastika at the centre and has figure sculpture around the whorl, to the left is a hunting scene and to the right a chariot scene above the whorl is scene showing a figure holding a Baby with another figure to the right of them, below the sun disc is a crucifixion scene. The shaft of this face bears two ornate panels. The top one is a fret pattern and the lower panel is a key pattern.

County kilkenny has five such high crosses, most a likely still in their original setting but being over a thousand years old must of their location will have changed.

Some people have a theory that these high crosses were originally larger standing stones used in pagan stones circles or passage tombs, the form of the cross being sculpted into them during the times of the pagan’s conversion to Christianity. In Ireland this would have been during the time of Saint Patrick.

It was felt much more effective when converting people to Christianity to convert original locations for the use of the early church, including fresh water springs.

Standing stone marking a well/spring

Fallen standing stone marking a well/spring

In Ireland most springs would have been the location of worship to river or fresh water gods or goddess, in post pagan times many of these locations became holy wells dedicated to a Christian saint. Most even the forgotten spring above still have the original pagan standing stone in place , used to help find and mark the location of the spring and to leave offerings to the gods and goddesses ( Well dressing ).


Killamery high cross 2

Killamery high cross 3

Killamery high cross 4

Killamery high cross 5

12 responses

  1. Wonderfully Beautiful and Fascinating πŸ™‚

    May 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    • Hello Morgan πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you !! very very happy you enjoyed and found interesting πŸ™‚

      May 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

  2. This is beautiful, Nigel.

    May 26, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    • Hello πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you , very pleased that you enjoyed πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      May 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm

  3. hocuspocus13

    Reblogged this on hocuspocus13.

    May 27, 2014 at 1:06 am

  4. poppytump

    So much detail on these Crosses Nigel I never realised . I will have to take a closer look should I come across one in future !

    May 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    • Hello Poppy πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you , yes I think these were times when few even had a printed book, so sculptures were used to tell the biblical stores in stone!!!

      Its great fun to explore these things πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      May 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm

  5. M-R

    That capstone … it looks almost as if it’s too much. As if someone added it as an afterthought. I know that didn’t happen; and I think my opinion comes from being unfamiliar with capstones on these crosses in other places. Or am I just getting so old I can’t remember bloody ANYTHING ?! 😐

    May 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    • Hello Margaret πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Their is a story to the capstones , as in the signify a particular local seat of power. Some of them look like hats others like a roof of a church building!!

      This cross is very close to home too and it has more of a hat look to the cap !!!

      I think because they are from a different age when little printed martial was available the church used as much symbolic imagery as possible !!!

      PS.. I think your doing very well πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      May 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      • M-R

        THANK YOU for that link ! – what an amazing variety of hats they wear, to be sure ! πŸ™‚

        May 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm

  6. Pingback: Pagan ring forts and passage tombs , From Kerry to kilkenny | Nigel borrington

  7. My computer had a meltdown a few days ago so I have been β€œcomperterless” until now. Great to be back and catch up on your posts! πŸ™‚

    May 30, 2014 at 6:35 am

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