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High Crosses of Ireland

In Ireland, the high cross is the most impressive of all Irish monuments.
The origins of this cross can be traced to Roman times, where such free
standing monuments were commonly used to commemorate battle victories. 

However, it was not until the 4th Century A.D., with the introduction of the
cult of the cross by the First Christian Roman Emperor Constantine, that the
cross was used to represent Christ's victory.  In Ireland, the magnificantly
carved high cross, whilst thought to have a protective influence, also served
as an assembly point for monastic religious ceremonies.

The earliest known high cross is the Carandonagh Cross, dating from the mid
7th Century, which was part of a hermitage in the north-west of County Donegal.
However, the most magnificant of all Irish high crosses are the early 10th Century
Scripture Crosses, which were created at the stone carving workshop situated in
the monastic settlement of Clonmacnois Co. Offaly.

The panels of these crosses--crafted during a time of great spiritual reform
and ascetism--contain highly detailed carvings of biblical scenes.  This
facilitated easy comprehension, for at that time the majority of the people
were illiterate.  It was for this reason that the Scripture Crosses have
been called "Sermons in Stone".