Clonmacnoise - South Cross High Cross




N 53° 19' 34.14"   W 007° 59' 09.78"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

N 00923 30656

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 20 June 2018

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The South Cross as it appears when accessing the monastic site. The church in the background is Temple Dowling.

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 South Cross is the first thing a visitor sees upon entering the large enclosure of the monastic site.
This cross is a replica, the original one is kept inside the Visitors' Centre for protection, but I think that the replica is getting more weathered than the original one.
Though being a high cross, it doesn't bear any of the typical carvings or biblical scenes as other high crosses do, apart from a crucifixion.

The cross is 2.76 metres tall and stands on a base which is 97 centimetres tall, for a total height of 3.73 metres.
The arms open at 1.12 metres, the shaft is 44 centimetres wide and 31 centimetres thick.

The west face is the one a visitor sees first. It has five bosses on its head.
The first panel under the head shows a crucifixion. Along with Christ, there are four more figures in this scene. Two small figures sit crouched above Christ's arms.
Two more figures are at the feet of the cross, the one on the left holds a spear and pierces Christ's chest. The other two panels on the west side of the shaft have interlaced patterns.
The east face of the cross has bosses on the head and in the first panel of the shaft. The other two panels have interlaced patterns.
The south side of the cross has interlaced patterns on all panels but the bottom one, where there are four bosses aligned vertically.
The north side has only interlaced motifs.

Animal and human carvings are on the base of the cross, but they are badly worn.

The original cross might date from the 9th or 10th century.

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

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