Killamery High Cross
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.
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 ).
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