If you’ve ever taken a trip to Ireland (if not, you need to pack your bags ASAP), you might have noticed that the whole country is covered in symbolism. Okay, you may have drunk one too many Guinness to take in every single one, but the Irish culture is hugely prevalent in modern day life. You can’t walk the streets without seeing at least ten Shamrock’s, people dressed up as Leprechauns, and a whole load of green. However, one of the lesser known symbols of Ireland is the Celtic Cross, which you may have only seen if you’ve taken a trip to an Irish cemetery (oooh, scary)…
What is the Celtic Cross?
So what really is the Celtic Cross? Well, this symbol is incredibly similar to the Christian Cross but features a different aesthetic appearance. The Celtic Cross is comprised of your ordinary Latin cross but features a ring (or nimbus) where the stem and the arms meet. Although these crosses can be found across Ireland, thanks to their Gaelic roots they have also made their way into England, Scotland, Wales and more.
What does it mean?
This question is a little more difficult. There has been much speculation about the history and the symbolism of the Celtic Cross – but there is no simple answer. Many believe that the cross originated in the Early Middle Ages in Ireland, and was first used as a structural addition. Yep, it’s believed that the circular intersection acts as a support to the long and tall cross. However, there are others who think the Celtic Cross is much more meaningful. Many speculate that the circle represents Invictus – the Roman sun-god, whereas there are others who maintain that the circle represents the halo of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the most popular Irish legend involves one of the most famous men to come out of the Emerald Isle: Saint Patrick. It’s believed that Saint Paddy combined the traditional Christian cross with the Pagan sun cross to convert those who were non-believers in the cross. Of course, there is no real way to determine the truth.
The history of the Celtic Cross
As you walk through the cemeteries of Ireland today, you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of Celtic Crosses that cover the ground. However, they weren’t always this way. When they were first used, the circular form and the cross were simply carved onto larger pieces of rock, rather than carved out of the rock. These slabs were then placed above the grave or on top of them. Before too long, those who had more money began to request more elaborate patterns, which formed the Celtic Cross we know and love today.
The Celtic Cross in modern day
Although the Celtic Cross is largely associated with death and funerals, the modern Celtic Cross has also found its way into popular culture. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for Irish natives to wear the cross on a necklace, a ring, or as an ornament in their house. Since the Celtic Revival in the 19th Century, the cross has become a symbol of Celtic culture – and many wish to show that off.
The Celtic Cross is one of the most overlooked symbols in Ireland, but when you look deeper into the history and symbolism of the cross, you’ll see it should be at the top of the pile…