Irish High Crosses


Probably the earliest group of ringed high crosses, the Ossory group includes these two fine high crosses at Ahenny in Co Tipperary. Found at the monastic site of Kilclispeen these crosses imitate the earlier wooden crosses which were encased with a metal binding, the stone bosses imitate the studs that would have covered the rivets, these held the metal and wooden crosses together. Dr Francoise Hardy dated the crosses to the 8th century based on parallel designs in metalwork. The sandstone crosses are skillfully carved with intricate geometrical designs. The plain base of a third cross also remains on site. About three kilometres from here, just over the border in Kilkieran graveyard, county Kilkenny, are four more crosses belonging to the Ossary group. Two of those crosses are similar in style to the crosses at Ahenny.

The North Cross

The north cross stands at 3.13 metres high and is the finest example. It has a conical shaped cap-stone, which may represent a bishops mitre. A conical cap is also present on the east and west crosses at Kilkieran. The cap was discovered nearby and placed on the cross in the 1900s. I presume there was a tenon joint present on the top of the cross to hold the capstone in position. A tenon joint can be seen on the cross head at Kilree, where the capstone is missing.

West face

East face


West shaft detail

East shaft detail

North Cross, west side base

North Cross, south side base

The South Cross

The figure sculpture on both crosses appears only on the base and without the best lighting conditions it's very difficult to make out. The detail of the North Cross base, south face, pictured above right, shows David bringing the defeated Goliath to Jerusalem.

Both crosses are made out of sandstone and best viewed around mid-day during the summer, when the high relief of the sculpture is shown at its best. The cross, east face pictured left below, stands at 3.90 metres high.

The south cross, east face

The south cross, west face


Situated: In Ahenny, County Tipperary. From Carrick-on-Suir take the R 697 North, after 5 kilometres take a left at Scrogh Bridge then take the next right. Two kilometres down this road there is a church on your right, the crosses are in a field immediately to the right of the church.

Group: Western Ossory

Google Map:

Discovery . Map: 75 S 4127 2916. Last Visit: Aug 2020.

Longitude: 7° 23' 36" W

Latitude: 52° 24' 45" N

Nearest High Crosses featured on this website

Kilkieran: 2 Kilometres SSE.

Killamery: 8 Kilometres NNW

Kilree: 15 Kilometres North East

Graiguenamanagh: 32 Kilometres ENE.

Ullard: 36 Kilometres ENE.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Ref: Edwards, Nancy. “An Early Group of Crosses from the Kingdom of Ossory.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 113, 1983, pp. 5–46. JSTOR,

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