Celtic Cross – The History Of The Irish Cross

The most popular among the existing Celtic symbols, the Celtic Cross which has a circle on its intersection became the common Irish symbol. 

Also known as the Irish Cross, the Cross of Iona, or the High Cross, has first emerged in Ireland in the early Middle Ages. Read on to find out more about this traditional Christian symbol. 

Celtic Cross – The History Of The Irish Cross

The Celtic Cross

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Where did the Celtic cross come from?

The history of Celtic Cross goes back to Middles Ages and it predates Christianity. It also has different versions of its origin.

Some said that the cross originated from St. Patrick when he was trying to convert the pagans in Ireland to Christianity.

The story says that St. Patrick used the cross and combined it with the sun to help convince pagans to convert to Christianity. The sun used to be worshipped by the pagans and St. Patrick used this knowledge to convert them.  

Others claimed that it started with St. Declan or St. Columba.

Another theory is that it came from Scotland and it might have inspired St. John to bring it to Ireland or Scotland got it from Ireland.

Whatever the story of the origin is, the Celtic Cross is clearly one of the most important symbols of Christianity in Ireland. 

What is the symbolic meaning of the Celtic cross?

Celtic Symbols and their meaning

There are various interpretations as to what the Cross means, and some say that this symbol represents knowledge, strength, and compassion.

Others say that the four points are linked to the four cardinal directions, or the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), or as a representation of our mind, soul, body, and heart. And the circles around the cross intersection symbolizes unification, totality, inclusion, and wholeness. 

But, since it is also widely recognized as a Christian symbol the ring surrounding the cross, is believed to symbolize God’s never-ending love for mankind.

By the mid-19th century, this religious symbol not only became a religious symbol but also an emblem of the Celtic identity. 

Is the Celtic Cross Irish or Scottish?

As mentioned earlier, it is not clear where exactly the cross first appeared. But some versions of the history say that the cross was found first in Ahenny in Tipperary and in Iona – a small island off the Scottish coast.

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Although the high crosses in Ahenny are older, it is also possible that when St. John’s visited Iona as part of his pilgrimage, he might have gotten the idea from Iona crosses and brought it to Ahenny. 

Why is the Irish Cross important?

St Patrick's Well Marlfield

Despite contradicting stories of the origin of the Celtic Cross, one thing is consistent.

This Irish cross has a significant contribution to Christianity in Ireland and it becomes a traditional Christian symbol in Ireland. 

These high crosses become symbolic that people used it for the memorial of famous people and important landmarks markings.

During the 1800s, these Celtic crosses became more popular that people used them as headstones and monuments. Up to this day, you’ll find these crosses everywhere in Ireland. 

Irish Cross Inspired Products 


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