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The Celtic Cross - An Irish Symbol of Faith and Hope

By Leigh Maher

In the holy ground of the churchyards of Ireland, simple stone crosses rest in remembrance of those who have passed. For centuries, these ringed crosses, known as Celtic Crosses, have been used as symbols of faith and hope, along with other crosses, such as High Crosses. A true Celtic Cross will always include a central ring, which is thought to be borrowed from Pagan rituals of yore, representing the Sun. The four points of the Celtic Cross represent the four directions, north, south, east and west.

When Celtic Crosses first appeared in Ireland, they were often decorated with Runic symbols, and sometimes with zoomorphic images of animals as well. While they may have been considered Pagan symbols back in the day, Celtic Crosses have become potent symbols of Christianity in Ireland.

The Insular Art movement produced many fine examples of Celtic Crosses, throughout Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Insular Art is complex, symbolic, and somewhat mysterious. The art movement gained its name from the fact that is was impossible to ascertain exactly where the art may have been made. Often, art treasures and metalwork was moved from one country to another.

It is certain that many Celtic Crosses were made in Ireland, rather than simply brought there, but others have a hazier origin. The Insular art movement began after the Romans retreated from Celtic lands, and grew stronger as the Celtic people embraced Christianity.

Irish master artists have a long tradition of expertise with metalwork and stonework, and, in past centuries, they added real beauty and meaning to Celtic Crosses. Unlike the Crucifix, which features painful and sad images of Jesus in his suffering, the Celtic Cross is more decorative and less graphic. For example, the Celtic Cross often features carved symbols and intricate knot work that symbolize life-force and the eternal nature of all things. Irish master craftsmen sought out many small variations to the Celtic Cross, adding a rich, three-dimensional quality to the simple structure.

Some other examples of decoration used to enhance the beauty of stone and metal Celtic Crosses are whorls and spirals, popular symbols used in many Celtic designs of the Insular Art period. Some symbols remain wrapped in mystery, years later, but their frequent use in Celtic art and design speaks to spiritual meanings, and to the notion of eternity. The spiral, in particular, is thought to represent growth, and the journey through life.

When the first High Crosses appeared in Celtic lands during the ninth century, they were often adorned with zoomorphic, or animal, symbols...but why? Some people feel that many aspects of Celtic and High Crosses were borrowed from the Druids, who worshipped the natural world.

The addition of complex, richly-detailed animal symbols such as wolfhounds, birds, and other creatures, may have been passed down from the Druids. Zoomorphic symbols faded in popularity over the years, and Celtic Crosses continued to evolve into their modern variations.

Today, master craftsmen still embrace the beauty and meaning of Celtic Crosses, and many Irish families still place a Cross on the grave of a loved one, to symbolize their faith in a higher power. Today, Celtic Crosses can also be found in jewelry designs such as pendants, and they are crafted of gold, silver, and often precious stones such as emeralds and diamonds. The pleasing lines and intricate knot work of modern Celtic Cross jewelry designs have made them popular choices for many wearers who wish to honor their Celtic heritage.

If you travel to Ireland, you will find ancient and modern examples of the Celtic Cross in churches, churchyards, and other landmarks. It is thought that some Celtic Crosses were placed in the ground in order to guide travelers on their journey.

The timeless nature of the Celtic Cross ensures that each generation discovers its meaning and history, decade after decade. The crosses are a touching symbol of the past, and an important way to remain in touch with the beliefs and spirit of Christianity. Celtic Crosses will always remain an integral part of Irish art and culture, whether they are worn as pendants, or placed in remembrance upon the final resting place of a loved one.

The fascinating history and meaning of Celtic Crosses is often steeped in mystery, but there is no doubt that the love of God prompted their creation. For this reason, they will always retain their appeal, and represent the special, unique nature of the Celtic people.

Leigh Maher researches and writes about Celtic jewelry, and specialises in Celtic wedding rings, engagement rings and bridal jewelry. Click here for more information about Celtic cross jewelry [http://www.mrzeesshoppingcenter.com/online-jewelry-store/finding-the-perfect-celtic-cross-pendant-for-you.html]


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