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The High Crosses


If the Book is a small scale testament to the artistic achievement of the age, then the "High Crosses" are painted on a much broader canvas. There are five of them altogether. Four are situated in the churchyard of St. Columba's church and the fifth was a bone of some contention. It formerly stood at the central junction of the various roads which meet in Kells. It has had a number of near misses from the large number of container lorries which pass through Kells daily. Eventually it became structurally unsound and has now been restored and placed outside the Courthouse, now the Kells Heritage Centre. The unfinished cross. The picture cannot convey the massiveness of the structure nor its solidity. The carvings, as with all the other crosses, depict scenes from the Old Testament. Even the slight enhancement applied to this photo doesn't do justice to the relief carvings and their intricate detail. This was a work in progress and has only comparatively recently been assembled. Once again, you have to be there.




The crosses in the churchyard are in varying states of preservation. One was mutilated by Cromwell's soldiery but two of the others are in fair order. The crosses were used to aid in the explanation of the scriptures to a population who seem to have preferred a more visual style of instruction, as indeed we do currently. The picture and the thousand words again.The West Cross. Fragments of the head, now vanished, used to litter the churchyard apparently. The cross illustrates,amongst other events, the Marriage Feast at Cana, The Baptism of Jesus and several happenings from the book of Genesis. The head was removed in the 17th century as an act of vandalism.

The High Crosses of Kells, as indicated elswhere, is a useful and definitive booklet for the study of the crosses and can usually be bought in the town.




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