Irish High Crosses


Nestled below Benbulben Mountain in the picturesque village of Drumcliffe, St Colmcille founded a monastery in the 6th Century. Although the monastery seems to have been well known from the 9th to the 16th century, the only remains today are three High Crosses and the stump of a round tower. The crosses are in a graveyard on the grounds of a former abbey. Adjacent to the ancient graveyard is a road leading to the early 19th century St. Columba's Church of Ireland and the final resting place of the poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939). The highly decorated cross pictured to the right is of sandstone and may date from the 11th century. This High Cross stands at 3.83 metres and both the east and west side feature animals in high relief. On the west face the subjects include the Presentation in the Temple and the Crucifixion. The east face bears Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Daniel in the Lions' Den and a Lion in high relief. At the head is possibly Christ in Glory. The stonemason seems to have portrayed a camel on the cross which is an unusual feature. The narrow edges are also richly carved with ornament and figure carving. The south side of the shaft features the only icon of the Virgin and Child on an Irish High Cross.

West Face

Built into the wall surrounding the graveyard and facing the road is the shaft of the second, possibly plain, High Cross. This cross appears to be constructed of a fossil limestone and is highly weathered. On the opposite side of the road which now disects the former monastic site is the remains of Sligo's only Round Tower.

Cross shaft in the passageway

Recently I learned about a third high cross discovered during restoration work at St Columba's Church in 1999. Two pieces of a sandstone cross were found built into the wall of the church. These stones were probably the upper and lower stones of the shaft. The upper piece, pictured above, was discovered in the passage way. It measures 1.02 metres in length. The lower stone, pictured below is inside the church to the right . It is 1.05 metres long and 70 cms wide. The mortice hole in the lower shaft is a feature also present in the high cross at Boho.

Cross shaft inside the door

Situated: Nestled below Benbulben in County Sligo, approximately 12 kilometres north of Sligo town on the N15.

Google Map.

Discovery Map: 16 G 6779 4205.

Longitude: 8° 29' 42" W

Latitude: 54° 19' 34" N

Last Visit: Sept 2010

Nearest high crosses or christian sites.

Boho: 44 kilometres E.

Glencolmcille: 45 kilometres NNW.

Devenish Island: 54 kilometres E.

Lisnaskea: 70 kilometres ESE.



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