Irish High Crosses
The monastic site at Fahan was founded by St Mura in the 6th century. Originally the monastery was known as Othan Mor, but after St Mura's death became known as Fahan Mura. The main point of interest at this site today is the beautifully decorated 7th century cross slab located in the graveyard. It was generally believed that this cross slab at Fahan Mura was a precursor to the Irish High Crosses, although in recent studies it is suggested the slab may be of a later date. The west face of the slab, pictured below, is beautifully decorated. The tree of life is represented by intertwining bands of ribbon following around five sun motifs that represent fruit. The tree of life has its roots in the ground and its branches high in the air, representing a connection between heaven and earth. A symbol of growth, death and rebirth. Carved on either side of the trunk are two figures possibly representing Áed Uaridnach ( High King of Ireland) and Saint Mura, founders of the church at Fahan. Could they represent pilgrims ? Was Fahan Mura along with Carndonagh also an early pilgrimage site.
The east face of the stele is also decorated with a cross. The decoration on the west face shows a connection with the cross slabs in Scotland, where as on this face the cross is more deeply structured. There are also five fruits or bosses featured. The shaft is extended like the handle of flabellum similar to the Marigold Stone at Carndonagh. At the top of the Cross is a triangle formed by two birds facing each other. Inside the triangle is a Sun with rays shining down onto the cross. Jakob Streit in his book "Sun and Cross" suggests that these rays represent the logos-light from the heavenly trinity flowing downwards into the cross, thus changing the cross of death into the tree of life. The south side of the stele is plain, but along the north side is an inscription of Gloria Patri in Greek. We were hoping to have sharper, clearer images of the carvings, but due to taking a wrong turn in Carndonagh we arrived at Fahan must later than we had planned. On the outside wall of the graveyard is a square stone decorated with a ringed cross and also mounted into the wall is a holed stone. Hopefully we will be back on the Inishowen peninsula in the near future as Fahan Mura is one of my favourite sites.
Situated: From Buncrana head south on the R238 after approx 7 kilometres. There is a sign for Fahan Mura cross slab on your left.
Discovery OS Map 2 and 7: C 3450 2625. Last Visit: April 2010.
Longitude: 7° 27' 35.03" W
Latitude: 55° 4' 54.86" N
Photos Jim Dempsey and Deb Snelson.
Nearest High Crosses or monastic sites featured on this web site.
Carndonagh: 22 Kilometres NNE.
Carrowmore: 26 Kilometres NNE.
Clonca: 28 Kilometres NNE.
Gartan: 30 Kilometres WSW.