Irish High Crosses



Monasterboice County Louth, the monastery which was founded by Saint Buite who died in 521 AD, contains two of the finest High Crosses in Ireland, both of these Crosses are made of sandstone and date to around the 10th century. The site also has a round tower, which is in excellent condition.

The Cross of Muiredach, west face pictured on the right, gets its name from an inscription at the base of the west face, saying it was erected by Muiredach. The cross is around 5.2 metres high. The theme of the cross is Christ the King, Lord of the Earth. Below is a detail from the bottom of the west face showing Christ being mocked by roman soldiers

Above is a detail from the east side of the cross showing Adam and Eve in the garden and Cain Slaying Abel. In general the east side of a high cross will contain scenes from the Old Testament and the west side scenes from the New Testament.

West Face Click here for more detailed image

The Inscription at the base of the west side, seen between two cats playing reads,OR DO MUIREDACH LASNDERNAD.....RO, A prayer for Muiredach who had the cross erected. Run the mouse over to help reveal the inscription.

The east face of Muiredach's cross is shown left, it bears scriptural panels from the old testament. At the bottom of the shaft are two animals (possibly lions), the panel above shows Adam and Eve to the left and Cain and Abel to the right. The next panel up bears David smiting Goliath, above that Moses striking water from the rock and the top panel features the adoration of the Magi. The iconography on the head of the cross depicts the last judgement, at the centre is Christ in Majesty and to his right David with his harp upon which sits a dove (The Holy Spirit) and on the arm to Davids right are the good souls all facing Christ. To the left of Christ is Gabriel ? and on the left arm behind Gabriel a devil with a trident pushes the bad souls who have turned away from Christ to eternal damnation. Just below Christ St Michael is weighing the souls and a devil tries to pull them away from Christ. Above Christ sits a dove (the Holy Spirit). At the top of the head sits a house with a shingled roof that bears unidentified two figures. The base on the eastern side features decoration at the bottom with animals and two men wrestling above. I was very lucky on my lastest visit as the light of mid-day sun showed the relief wonderfully. I would recommend you visit around this time in spring or autumn.


The Tall Cross or West Cross, The tallest high cross in Ireland pictured on the left, stands about 7 metres high. This cross is unusual in that the crucifixion scene on the west face, has a fully clothed figure of christ a detail of which is shown below left. Because of it's size this cross has more iconography than any other cross in Ireland.

Above right is a detail from the east face showing Moses smiting the water from a rock. Amongst the other scenes are Samson toppling the pillars of the temple, David with the head of Goliath, the Temptation of St Anthony, the Baptism of Christ, Christ in the Tomb, Samuel anointing David and Pilate washing his hands.



There is a third high cross in the graveyard at Monasterboice, known as the north cross this cross is quite plain compared to the other two. Pictured on the left is the west face bearing the Crucifixion, the only scriptural scene featured. The shaft of the cross was damaged and replaced at some stage, the original shaft stands to the north east of the cross in the small enclosure and to the south east stands a sun dial. Amongst the other remains at the site are two small churches, two early grave slabs a bullaun stone and possibly three souterrains. There is a round tower at this site





Situated: In County Louth, 8 kilometres north west of Drogheda. From Drogheda take the R132 north, after 7K take a sign-posted left turn for Monasterboice, from here you can see the round tower situated on your left.

Group: North Leinster.

Google Map.

Discovery Map: 36 O 0429 8205. Last Visit: Feb 2009.

Longitude: 6° 25' 4" W

Latitude: 53° 46' 39" N

Nearest High Crosses featured on this web site

Termonfeckin: 10 Kilometres East.

Dromiskin: 16 Kilometres North.

Killary: 16 Kilometres North East

Duleek: 17 Kilometres South.

Kells: 31 Kilometres West.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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