Clonmacnoise - Cross of the Scriptures High Cross




N 53° 19' 34.74"   W 007° 59' 11.04"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

N 00906 30674

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 20 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

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Seen from the west.
The Cross of the Scriptures on the left in the foreground. In the background, left to right, the Cathedral, Temple Dowling, and the South Cross.

Clonmacnoise lies in a meander on the left bank of River Shannon, and it is one of the oldest early Christian settlements in Europe.

St. Ciarán along with Diarmait Uí Cerbaill founded it around 544 and he chose a central site in Ireland, at the crossroads of the main Irish river and the Esker Riada, the geological gravel and sand formation that stretches east-west across Ireland, so that the new monastery could be accessed from everywhere.
It soon became an important centre for studying religion and it attracted scholars and pupils from all over Europe, and grew into a large monastic city. It was also an important centre for craftmanship and trade.

In its best period it had up to 17 churches, but today only 7 of them survive in ruins. Along with these ruins, there are also three crosses and two round towers, one of which attached to a church.

The Cross of the Scriptures is the finest cross of the monastic site and has a beauty similar to Muiredach's Cross at Monasterboice.
This cross is a replica, the original one is kept inside the Visitors' Centre for protection.
The replica stands right to the west of the Cathedral, and about 25 metres northwest from the South Cross.
The original cross dated from about 900.

The cross is 3.15 metres tall and stands on a base which is 77 centimetres tall, for a total height of 3.92 metres.
The arms open at 1.43 metres, the shaft is 52 centimetres wide and 35 centimetres thick.

The reason why The Cross of the Scriptures has this name is obvious. The cross is totally carved with biblical scenes.

On the west face, the head shows a crucifixion, with the two soldiers piercing Christ's chest under his arms.
The first panel of the shaft under the head depicts three soldiers in the act of taking Christ's robe off.
The middle panel on the west side of the shaft shows the mocking of Christ.
The bottom panel shows Christ in the tomb with the soldiers guarding the place.

On the east face of the cross, the head shows the Judgment Day, with Christ in the centre, the good souls and a piper to his right, and the bad souls and a devil who is pushing them to the eternal damnation on his left. The small panel above the ring shows Christ in Glory with two angels.
The first panel on the shaft, under the head, depicts Christ with St. Peter and St. Paul. Peter is receiving the key, Paul is receiving the Book of the New Testament.
The middle panel shows the Butler handing a drinking horn to the Pharaoh. The bottom panel depicts two figures with a vine.

The north side of the cross has another nice carving under its arm, with a snake wrapped around two human heads and a cat on top of it in the act of eating something.
The upper panel on the north side shows two figures, one standing, the other one is sat. Thay might represent an evangelist behind a prophet. The panel below shows David as a shepherd, guiding his sheep. The last panel shows David playing his lyra.

The south side of the cross has a nice carving under the arm, where a snake is trying to strangle two human figures, with a hand, likely the Hand of God, emerges from the twisted snake.
The upper and middle panel might depict St. Anthony and St. Paul hermits in the desert.

The arms of the cross are slightly tilted upwards.

We came to Clonmacnoise for the first time on July 4th, 1994, and again on May 18th, 2002.

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