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island of Inishmurray, off the coast of Sligo, many cross-slabs
and pillars survive, as well as ruined churches and monks' cells
(known as clocháns). Some slabs and pillars have
been set up on leachta, others stood or lay about until
recently removed to the schoolhouse 'for their protection'.
panoramic virtual visit to the island, with an excellent essay
on its history, can be enjoyed at
from the Dawn
It is not surprising in such a well-preserved island environment
as Inishmurray to find smooth oval or spherical, magic, holy,
cure- or curse-stones (discussed
in part two)
decorated by engraving - placed on top of a leacht...
...not far from a large corbelled stone hut (sometimes
mistaken for a sweathouse)
whose entrance is now very low because of infill.
combination of rectilinear with curvilinear design occurs on grave-slabs.
carved on both sides is one of a few known to have crossed and
re-crossed the Atlantic as talismans to help the afflicted descendants
of emigrants from the area.
Bruckless, county Donegal: two sides of
the same slab.
Glencolumbcille, county Donegal:
two of many cross-pillars
marking 'stations' of the turas.
The eighth 'station' at Glencolumbcille.
Slabs and pillars seem to merge on certain sites - which,
like most of those illustrated here, are either on islands or
near to the sea.
Inishbofin, co. Galway
Caher Island, co. Mayo
island of Inishkea North, large cross-slabs (unlikely to be funerary)
Inishkea North, county Mayo:
crucifixion slab and ornamented quernstone:
note the wounds of Jesus indicated by cup-marks
Kilnaruane in county Cork, an impressive schist pillar is carved
on both sides. The SW side features SS Anthony and Paul the Hermit
in the desert, a praying figure, and a cross. Uniquely on the
NE side is a wicker-and-skin boat (currach) with rowers.
It was from this area that St Brendan the Navigator sailed to
for a larger picture
rotated to the right
Though Dublin City
has a very fine cross-pillar which is nothing less than an
elaborate, latter-day standing-stone, the development is less
deft on some other early, near-coastal sites.
Tullaghora, county Antrim
to the later development of the cross-shaped "scripture crosses"
there was a definite tendency (possibly prehistoric)
to carve some of the large early pillars in human shape, as can
be seen at
Legananny, county Down
more spectacularly, at
for a larger photo
Skellig Michael, county Kerry.
Another development was
the "face-cross", on much smaller slabs or very small
Knappaghmanagh, county Mayo:
(note the cup-marks or solution pits)
sophisticated of the face-crosses, however, is not within the
scope of this website, for it is on the Hebridean island of Colonsay,
pillar, in a still-used ancient graveyard, is of the simpler,
more primitive kind.
Kilbroney, county Down.
in the north-west county of Donegal that pillars, slabs and crucifixions
merge together, and associate with motifs drawn both from pre-Christian
Ireland and Merovingian France.
Inishkeel, county Donegal
Drumhallagh, county Donegal:
note the quartzite pebbles at the base of this slab
and circular motifs of various kinds become a common feature on
the sculptured crosses of the following centuries - along with
enigmatic human figures,
as well as Biblical scenes such as The Fall, Cain and Abel, King
David playing his harp, Daniel in the Lions' Den, the Baptism
of Jesus, and the Last Supper.
Cross-pillar, Carndonagh, county Donegal
Cross and "guard-pillars", Carndonagh,
the pillars may have been boundary-markers for the monastery
"Guard-pillar" of the cross at
Carndonagh, county Donegal:
a monk at the left, and a mythological figure (reminiscent of
Norse trickster/devil-god Loki) on the right.
The latter is not so different from our motif-statue of the smith-god
Nuadú of the horned helmet - also from a Christian site - which
may be five hundred or more years older.
The pages "Enigmas
of the Irish Crosses"
appear only on the
to learn more
Manticora on the side of a cross-pillar
at Tibberaghny (Tybroughney), county Kilkenny: one of a large
of enigmatic beasts and scenes on Irish crosses.
Click on the picture above to see another