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Durrow High Cross

The High Cross at Durrow, Co. Offaly, was part of a monastery founded by St. Columba in 553 with aid from Aedh, the son of Prince Brendan. It, along with a holy well, is all that remains of this early Christian settlement. The cross is located just outside the County town of Tullamore, in Offaly.

What is a High Cross?

In Ireland, High Crosses began as a form of artistic worship that became popular in the early years of Irish Christianity, carrying onward into medieval times where they were often placed at monasteries.

The early styles were made with geometric patterns, which later evolved into Biblical scenes that were created on each side, or ‘face’ of the cross, in an effort to teach parishioners the stories of the Bible. High crosses were often commissioned by local parishioners and viewed as symbols of wealth and status.

Features of the Durrow High Cross

The Durrow cross is estimated to date back to the ninth century. Its four faces are embellished as follows:

  • First face – depictions of Christ and David slaying a lion, the resurrection, and Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.
  • Second face – the Crucifixion, and the tomb of Jesus surrounded by guards.
  • Third face – Adam and Eve and their son Cain slaying Abel
  • Fourth face – Zacharius, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.

Other religious relics found at this site and now located in Dublin are the Book of Durrow from 700 A D, housed at Trinity College, and the Crozier of Durrow located at the National Museum. The High Cross at Durrow was part of a monastery founded by St. Columba in 553 with aid from Aedh, the son of Prince Brendan. It, along with a holy well, is all that remains of this early Christian settlement.

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