Kildare Crosses

The crosses of County Kildare include:  Ballymore Eustace South, Ballymore Eustace North, Castledermot North, Castledermot South, Kilteel, Moone, Moone Fragmentary Cross, Newtown, Old Kilcullen, East, and Old Kilcullen West.  The location of County Kildare is indicated by the red star on the map to the right.

Ballymore Eustace

Introduction to the Site

Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, Ireland, Church

Little or nothing is known of the history of the site before the twelfth century.  When it comes to notice, Ballymore consisted of a manor and castle belonging to the Archbishop of Dublin.  The remains of a twelfth century church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary can be seen to the east of the present church, Saint John’s Church of Ireland.  Ballymore castle was constructed as part of the defense of the Pale.  Originally simply Ballymore, the town and castle became associated with the Eustace family when in 1373 Thomas Fitz-Eustace was appointed constable of the Castle of Ballymore by the Archbishop of Dublin.  The last Eustace to hold hereditary title was Nicholas Eustace who died in 1577.


The presence of two high crosses estimated to date from the tenth century suggest that there was a monastic site there prior to the year 1000 C.E.  Both of the crosses are granite.

Getting There:  The town of Ballymore Eustace is located in County Kildare, south of Naas on the R411.  It is just west of the N81 from Dublin.  The name Baile Mór na nIústasach means “big town of the Eustaces” in Irish.    The site and the present Saint John’s church is on the east side of town in a wooded area.  There is a signpost on the road.  A narrow lane leads up to the church which was built in 1820 (see photo above to the left).

The South Cross:

Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, Ireland, South CrossBallymore Eustace, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross

The South Cross: Standing south-east of the church is a broken cross.  Only the bottom part of the ring remains.  The shaft is just over one meter high.  On each side (though difficult to see in the photos below) there are panels that are framed by a roll moulding.  Whether or not any figural carvings existed in the past, none are visible now.  The base of the cross is tall and tapering and over half a meter high.  The photo on the left is the east face of the cross and that on the right is the west face.   




The North Cross:

This cross is in two pieces, the shaft and the head being separate.  It stands three and a half meters tall and across the arms it is just over one and a half meters wide.  The head of the cross is imperforate.  The east face has two circular raised ribs.  There is a boss near the top of the shaft.  The west face is very much like the east but has the addition of a large circular boss on a setting in the centre of the head.    It does not appear that there was any figural carving on this cross.

There is a secondary inscription on the west head of the cross that refers to the re-erection of the cross in 1689 by Ambrose Wall, sheriff of County Wicklow.  It reads:

AMEN / NO R THE 9 / ERECTED IN 16 / 89 / BY / AM WALL / IHS

When Peter Harbison was preparing his study of the high crosses, published in 1992, the north cross was leaning at a precarious angle. Heather King reports that an inspection in 1998 by the National Monuments staff of Duchas, the Heritage Service led to the cross being taken down and repairs being made.  

Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, Ireland, North CrossBallymore Eustace, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross

A portion of the report, written by Heather King reads, “An examination of the mortice showed that the shaft was sitting in the base without any mortar, and there was a gap of c. 20mm on three sides between shaft and mortice.  The cross shaft had no tenon and sat loosely in the mortice to a depth of c. 0.3m.  The mortice was over double that depth but bellied inwards at 0.3-0.35 m below the upper surface resulting in a narrowing of the mortice, which did not permit the shaft to be seated securely in position.”  (Excavations)  The base was excavated.  It proved to be a granite boulder with a stepped pyramidal shape. The base was reset and the cross re-erected for at least the second time.  

The photo on the left is the west face and that on the right is the east face of the cross.

Getting There:  The town of Ballymore Eustace is located in County Kildare, south of Naas on the R411.  It is just west of the N81 from Dublin.  The site and the present Saint John’s church is on the east side of town in a wooded area.  There is a signpost on the road.  A narrow lane leads up to the church  which was built in 1820.  The map below right shows the location of the site.  the two larger circles represent the crosses.  

The map is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.

Castledermot

Introduction to the Site 

Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, siteThe monastery at Castledermot was founded about 812 CE by Diarmait or St. Dermot, a grandson of Aed Ron, King of Ulster.  It was originally known as Diseart Diarmada or Dermot's Hermitage.  If the later date is correct, it was late for the Irish hermitage tradition (typically 400-700 CE).  The date of founding is a subject of debate with various sources pointing to a date of 500, 600 and 812. (Conservation Plan, p. 6; Harte and Richardson p. 2 and Comerford p. 361)   If founded in the ninth century it has the distinction of being founded in an area that seemed to be quite well settled in the 9th century, where most hermitage style monasteries were founded in more remote areas.  It is not known why Diarmait moved south into Leinster to form his monastery.  It may have been influenced by the fact that the area had an association with Palladius, the first Roman bishop in Ireland. 

The photo to the right shows the cemetery with the South cross in the center. 

Diarmait was a proponent of the Ceile De or Culdee movement.  The Culdees were a reaction against the materialism and political involvement of many of the well established and by then wealthy foundations.  They sought a return to greater piety in their common life.


The illustration to the left was made by Liam de Paor depicting the early monastery as he imagined it. (Conservation Plan p. 6) 

Diseart Diarmada is mentioned frequently in the Irish annals.  These entries suggest that Diarmait's mission survived and often thrived for about 300 years (from 812 to 1106).  In part their survival was due to the patronage of the O'Toole family.  Their financial support is evident in the round tower and the two surviving high crosses at the site.  This also suggests, however, that by the 10th century the foundation was willing to have and exhibit the signs of wealth that the round tower and high crosses represented.

During the time of the Viking troubles the community was attacked in 841 and 867.  These attacks set back the progress and growth of the monastery.

In 1037 the foundation became embroiled in a political incident.  Dunchadh, king of Leinster was blinded and subsequently killed there.  In 1040 a rival clan plundered the site and took prisoners.  In 1043 another tribal chief and his wife were killed there while presumably enjoying the hospitality and protection of the monks.  During this time there was a power struggle in the area and the monastery was not exempt from the troubles of the world around it.

The final pre-Norman reference in the Annals tells of the destruction of Diseart Diarmada by fire.  It is not known whether any rebuilding took place following the fire or if the community moved on.  The annals become silent on Castledermot.

The history of the south cross is a bit mysterious.  An estate map of Castledermot was commissioned by the Earl of Kildare and created in 1758 by John Rocque, a noted surveyor and cartographer.  This map (see a small section to the left) shows the church yard.  In the yard one cross is visible, the North Cross.  (Harte and Richardson, p. 8 & figure 4)  This suggests the south cross was not standing in the mid-eighteenth century.  Peter Harbison supports this implication when he reports that three pieces of the cross were re-assembled in the 19th century under the direction of the Marquis of Kildare.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 39)  In the photo below it appears the three peices were the base, the shaft and the head.  

Both the north cross, the south cross are made of granite.  There are a number of scenes on the south cross that duplicate images found on the north cross as will be noted below. (Harte and Richardson, pp. 1-3) 


Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, east face


North Cross:  The north cross (photo to the left) stands a little more than seven feet tall.  Across the arms it measures just under five and a half feet.  It sits on a base that is about three and a half feet tall, unusually tall for a High Cross base but not unheard of.  

Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, east baseEast Face:

The east face of the base has a lower and an upper panel,both are filled with geometric design.  The predominant design on the larger lower panel is that of s-curves.  They are interlinked both horizontally and vertically.  The upper panel is more difficult to see in the photos left and right.  The pattern runs horizontally and is composed of c-curves. Each is set off in a separate frame.

Two Robed Figures:  Moving to the cross itself, the lower panel (below left) contains two long-robed figures facing the front.  The figure on the left may be holding a staff across his body.  These two have not been reliably identified, but Peter Harbison suggests that given the image above, they may represent St. Paul and St. Anthony of the desert.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 37) 

Saints Paul and Anthony breaking bread.  The central image on the east shaft of the cross (below right) shows two men facing each other.  In between is a round object understood to be a loaf of bread.  It is being carried to the men by a raven.  This is definitely a scene reflecting a story of two of the great Desert Fathers.  

Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, East face shaftCastledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North cross, east face, shaft



   




The story is that Saint Paul the Hermit was the first to live alone in the wilderness.  For seventy years he lived in a cave, wore a tunic made from a palm tree fiber and saw no one.  His meals were send to him by God via a raven.  Each evening he received half a loaf of bread.  When Saint Anthony, another of the early desert fathers, learned about Saint Paul, he immediately went to find him.  When Anthony found him he was greeted with hospitality and the two talked about the greatness of God.  In the evening the raven appeared.  The bird carried not a half loaf of bread but a full loaf, half for each of the two saints.  The story is intended to emphasize the holiness of both of the men. (CopticChurch.net, 1998-2005)

The Apostles:  The highest image on the shaft could be considered as part of the head of the cross.  Nearly half of it is inside the ring.  As seen in the image below there are three figures on each side of the center of the head of the cross.  These figures almost certainly represent the twelve apostles.  The images are all simple and generic.     

Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, East face, head

The Ring:  Peter Harbison describes the designs in the ring as follows:  "the ring is decorated with interlinking S-shaped spirals below left, a meander upper left and possibly interlace above right."  (Harbison, 1992, p. 37)  No mention is made of the lower right portion of the ring because it is too damaged to identify a pattern. 

The Crucifixion:  In the center of the head of the cross is a crucifixion scene.  The usual characters of Stephaton, offering vinegar, and Longinus, with his lance are present below Christ's arms.  Above his arms are the typical angels, facing toward Jesus head.  Because of the space, Jesus' arms seem to be bent out at the elbows and he appears to have rather large shoulders.  It is an awkward pose.  Jesus is clothed in a long robe.  The most peculiar feature in the scene is what sits atop Jesus' head.  This could be intended to represent his hair, or as Peter Harbison adds, perhaps it is meant to be the crown of thorns. (Harbison, 1992, p. 37)  

South Side:

Castledrmot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, south side

As seen in the photo to the left, most of the decoration on the south face of the North cross is geometric design.  The only figural representation is on the lower portion of the base of the cross.

The Base:  In the lower panel we have a straightforward representation of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  The story is told in the Gospel of Matthew 15:32-38 and in the Gospel of Mark 8::1-10.  In both texts the number of loaves is given as seven.  In the image on the base (see photo below) there are two large loaves, three of a smaller size and five of what Peter Harbison describes as "buns".  (Harbison, 1992, p. 37)  So the image is suggestive rather than exact.  In addition there are two fish that could be described as moderate to large in size.  The text mentions several small fish.  The figure of Jesus stands to the left reaching out to bless this food.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, South side, base





The upper portion of the base (see photo below) is filled with s-shaped design with lozenge-shapes filling the gaps.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 37)

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, base



The shaft: The shaft of the cross (see photo below right)  is decorated with a wide interlace.  

The Ring:  There is an undecorated panel on the underside of the ring.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, shaft


Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, head



End of Arm:  The end of the arm (see photo left) has what Peter Harbison refers to as a meander pattern.  The under side of the arm and the top of the cross are not decorated.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 37) 



West Face:  

Often the possible identification of a figural scene depends on its context.   In the case of the west face of the north cross at Castledermot, context seems particularly important.  On a number of the scripture crosses one side contains Hebrew scripture references and the other side Christian scripture references.  The scenes on the east face of this cross deal with New Testament or Christian scripture scenes including an early church reference to Saints Paul and Anthony.  It is possible to identify each of the scenes of the west face of the cross as Old Testament or Hebrew scripture references.  Several of them clearly are.  Therefore, when choosing between a Hebrew scripture and a Christian scripture identification on the west face of this cross, I will tend to select the Hebrew scripture reference.  Further amplifying this the figures on the shaft of the cross, can each be identified as a story in the Daniel cycle, stories from the book of Daniel.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West Face

The Base:  The west face of the base (see photo below) is similar to the east face.  It is composed of s-shaped spirals all interconnected.  The pattern is smaller than that of the east face having four full s-curves horizontally rather than the three on the east face.  The upper panel of the base also follows the pattern of the east base.  It is composed of c-shaped curves.  While the base is not symmetrical in shape, it is clear that part of this design has been broken off.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West baseCastledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West base

The Shaft:  Moving from the bottom of the shaft upward we have three images.

Three Children in the Fiery Furnace:  Most authors agree that the lowest scene on the shaft (below left) represents the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace.  This story is told in Daniel 3:19-30.  Harbison lists a Christian scripture alternative as the Journey to Emmaus told in Luke 24:13-35.  (Harbison 1992, p. 38)  The image shows three figures facing forward.  

Susanna delivered from her tempters:  Harbison and other authors tend to identify this scene (below center) as the temptation of Saint Anthony.  I prefer an alternative, also mentioned by Harbison.  (Harbison 1992, p. 38)  The story of Susanna has at various times been part of the book of Daniel.  In some instances it represented chapter 1 of Daniel, at other times it came after chapter 12.  In the protestant world it is typically listed separately as one of the books of the Apocrypha.  The story illustrates the virtue and faith of Susanna and the wisdom of a young Daniel.  (Smith-Christopher, p. 174f)  Harbison describes the scene as follows:  "A central figure, shown frontally in a long robe and with its hands joined on its breast, is flanked by two creatures with human bodies and animal heads, and carrying a book."  (Harbison, 1992, p. 38)   

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West shaft   Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West shaft     Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West shaft

Daniel in the Lion's Den:  The top most image on the west face of the cross (above right) depicts Daniel in the Lion's Den.  The story is told in Daniel 6.  Daniel faces forward and there are two lions on each side of him.  They appear upright, one on top of the other.

The Head:  There are four images on the head of the cross.  Three of them are clearly Hebrew scripture references.

David Playing the Harp:  This is an image (below left) frequently used to portray King David.  As told in 1 Samuel 16:14-23 David often played the harp for King Saul.

Eve gives the apple to Adam:  At the center of the head (below center) is an image of Adam and Eve.  The tree rises in the center and its branches follow the frame outward and down.  The figure on the right seems to be seated and may be Adam.  The figure on the right has the serpent moving toward it and may represent Eve.  The apple is being exchanged in the center.    The story is told in Genesis chapter 3.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West headCastledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West head

       Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West head

The Sacrifice of Isaac:  Here (above right) Abraham stands to the right holding up a sword while Isaac leans over the altar.  The ram that becomes the sacrifice in Isaac's place is above his back.  The story is told in Genesis chapter 22.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, West head

The Judgment of Solomon:  This image has been interpreted in many different ways:  Saints Paul and Anthony overcoming the devil, the martyrdom of Saint Peter, the Death of Isaiah, the fall of Simon Magus, David delivered from Goliath and the slaughter of the Innocents.  I tend to agree with Peter Harbison who writes, "In view of the other Old Testament scenes on the head of the cross, this panel is more likely to represent the Judgment of Soloman than the Slaughter of the Innocents, but the long garments of the flanking figures could favour an interpretation as Saints Paul and Anthony overcoming the devil in human form."  (Harbison, 1992, p. 38)

"A long-robed figure on the left holds up a sword or club, while a figure in a long robe and cloak on the right holds up the right leg of a third figure upside down between them."  (Harbison, 1992, p. 38)  The central figure is quite large for an infant.  The story is told in 1 Kings 3:16-28.  It illustrates the wisdom of Solomon as King of the Hebrew people.

North Face:

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, North side

Like the South face, the north face is composed mostly of geometric design.  On both faces this is true with the exception of the carving on the base.

The Base:  This unusual figure appears to be "seated on its haunches and placing the right hand half-way up the lower leg.  As there would appear to be hatched wings on the back, the figure ought possibly to be indentified as an angel."  (Harbison, 1992, p. 38)  

Stokes interpretation identifies this as “Death in the tomb, awakening to the sound of the Gospel message. . . . This is a true picture of a Pagan, not a Christian interment.  The emaciated figure is seated and swathed; his arms clasping his knees — an image of death in the soul as in the body.”   She goes on to offer an interpretation of the iconographic program, the meaning of the figures on the cross taken together to represent the “scriptural message of the Redemption of man.”  (Stokes, p. 282)

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, North head

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, North Cross, North shaft

The Shaft:  On the shaft of the cross (photo left) we see a pattern of s-shaped spirals. 

The Head: "The underside of the ring has a sunken panel, as on the south side.  The upper side of the ring and the top of the cross remain undecorated."  On the end of the arm is a figure that may be an angel.  (Harbison, 1992, pp. 38-39)




The South Cross

East Face:  

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, East Face

The Base on the east face of the cross has no decoration, as can be seen in the photo of the east face of the cross to the right.

The Shaft and Head of the east face are completely covered by geometric design.  The shaft has four panels.  Moving up the shaft we have C-shaped spirals, a fretwork pattern, a panel of S-spirals and a small panel of interlace.

The head and arms are decorated with fret patterns.  Those in the center of the head run vertically while those on the arms run horizontally.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, East head

The Top  has a spiral in each corner.  They arise from an undecorated central diamond shaped surface.

The Ring is decorated with S-spirals.

The features of the head, arms and ring are more clearly seen in the image to the left.


South Face:  

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, South baseThe Base is decorated with an image of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  The story is told in the Gospel of Matthew 15:32-38 and in the Gospel of Mark 8::1-10.  A similar image appears on the base of the north cross, the south face.  Like that image Jesus is to the left reaching out to bless loaves and fish.  In this case there are five loaves and two fish.  An addition here is the presence of eight figures on the lower part of the scene.  They probably represent those who had come out to hear Jesus teach and were in need of food.  

The Shaft has six panels (see below left and center).  Each depicts two figures viewed frontally.  Because the total number of figures is twelve, it is assumed they represent the Apostles.  The Apostles also appear on the north cross.  There the figures surround the head of the cross on the east face.  

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, South shaft       Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, South shaft      Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, South head

While not shown, the under side of the ring has a sunken panel and the end of the arm has a figure that has not been identified.  The top (above right) has an S-Spiral pattern.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 39)

West Face:  

The west face of the cross (below left) contains an eclectic collection of scenes including images from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian scriptures and stories of the early desert fathers.  

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West Face

The scene on the base has been interpreted in two different ways.  Many high cross scholars have interpreted the scene (below) as Noah herding the animals into the ark.  This is part of the story of the great flood told in chapters 7-9 of the book of Genesis.  The implication is that Noah and perhaps one of his sons are driving animals toward the ark just before the beginning of the flood.  The challenge to this interpretation is that there are no pairs of animals and the herders are seen to carry weapons.

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West basePeter Harbison suggests this is a depiction of a hunting scene.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 39)  There are similar scenes on two other high crosses:  the Market cross and the South cross at Kells.  In each case the image may be interpreted either as a hunt scene or as relating to Noah driving the animals into the ark.  Thus comparison does not help to identify the intended content.

There are four other crosses that have images that reference the flood story.  They are the Armagh Market cross, the Donaghmore cross in County Down, the West cross at Kells and the West cross at Killary.  In each of these cases it is an image of the ark itself that is depicted. 

The Shaft of the cross contains four images as seen below.  The lowest image (below left) depicts Daniel in the Lion's Den.  While not sharp and clear Daniel can be seen in the center of the image with two lions depicted vertically on each side.  We see almost exactly the same image on the west face of the North cross.  

The next image (below right) has been interpreted by Peter Harbison and others to represent the temptation of Saint Anthony. Others have suggested it represents temptation (but not of Saint Anthony), the temptation of Suzanna, or the Arrest of Christ.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 39)  Again we have an almost exact image on the North cross.  There I have interpreted it as representing the temptation of Suzanna.  The story of Suzanna is told in the previous feature.  The image almost certainly is intended to depict temptation because the two side figures have human bodies but animal heads.  My interpretation would mean the lowest two images here both represent stories from the book of Daniel. 

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West shaft              Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West shaft

There is no doubt about the identification of the next panel (below left).  It clearly depicts the story of Eve giving the apple to Adam.  This image can also be found on the North cross.  There it occupies the center of the head on the west face which allows for the branches and fruit of the tree to come down behind Adam and Eve.  In both cases Eve is seen in the act of handing over the forbidden fruit.

The top image on the shaft of the cross (below right) clearly represents the story of Saints Paul and Anthony sharing bread in the desert. Once again this image is a duplication of a similar image on the North cross.  The story is told in the previous feature.  

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West shaft              Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West shaft

The Head of the cross has six separate images, two of which are difficult to clearly interpret.  

The Mocking or Flagellation of Christ is one interpretation of the scene at the top of the west face.  While it is difficult to see clearly in the photo below, Peter Harbison describes it as follows:  "A central figure, shown frontally, is flanked on each side by a figure in profile.  Each of the flanking figures holds up a sword (or a club?). . . the wing-like side-appendages of the central figure being perhaps the scarlet or purple cloak which the soldiers put on Christ."  Other interpretations suggest this image depicts  Moses, Aaron and Hur, the Arrest of Saint Peter or the Massacre of the Innocents.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 40)

Unidentified is the way Peter Harbison describes the second panel down.  There are three figures facing forward but the lack of attributes make it impossible to clearly identify.  Of course suggestions have been made including the Journey to Emmaus, the Fiery Furnace and the Three Wise Men delivered from Herod.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 40)

Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland, South Cross, West head

The left arm contains an image of David playing the harp.  David sits with the harp on his lap.  The right arm depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac.  Abraham on the left carries a sword.  Isaac bends over an alter at the lower right and the ram is pictured in the upper right.

The Crucifixion fills the center of the head of the cross.  The scene contains all the typical elements.  Christ wears a long robe, Stephaton on the right offers vinegar while Longinus on the left thrusts a spear into Christ's side.  Above Christ's arms angels fly toward his head.  Following the pattern of the crucifixion scene on the north cross, Christ's arms seem to extend out from the elbows in an awkward pose. 

 The panel at the bottom of the head is damaged.  There are three figures but no identifying attributes.  


North Face:  

I don't have a photo that adequately shows the details of the north face.  I’ve borrowed Harbison’s image.  (Harbison, 1992, vol. 2, Fig. 106)  What follows is Harbison's identification of the various panels.  (Harbison, 1992, pp. 40-41)

The base has an image identified as the Kiss of Judas on the right half of the base.  The area on the left side of the base is left uncarved.Harbison identifies most of the images on the shaft as part of the David cycle,  images reflecting the life of King David.   He suggests we read them from the top down.

Unidentified:  This panel depicts two figures in profile.  They seem to be embracing, though some have identified the scene as Jacob wrestling the Angel.  Options related to the David cycle might include David embracing Absalom or Johathan, Samuel kissing Saul, or Saul loving David greatly.

David Arming Himself:  The one figure in this tableau holds a round shield in the left hand and a sword in the right.  Other interpretations include the Evangelist Matthew, The Massacre of the Innocents, or simply a chief or warrior.

David and Goliath:  In an elongated panel there are two figures.  The one on the right is large and holds a sword.  The figure on the left is of smaller stature.  Other interpretations include the Apostle Matthew and his angel and the Massacre of the Innocents.

David Slays Goliath:  A large seated figure on the right has a much smaller figure sitting on his raised right leg.  This figure looks back toward a sword.  This would fit the moments before David beheaded the already defeated Goliath.  Once again some interpret this as a scene from the Massacre of the Innocents.  Other, less likely identifications include Aeneas escaping from Troy, the dwarf Cnu Deireoil singing to Finn and a Prophet and Evangelist.

David rejoicing or praying:  One figure stands frontally with arms raised in a pose like the orans or prayer posture.

The Under Side of the Ring has a sunken panel that is undecorated.

The End of the Arm shows a single figure.  No identification is made by Harbison.

The Top contains an S-spiral.

Getting There:  See Road Atlas page 45 3 B.  Castledermot is located east of the M9, along the R448.  From the R448 take Church street to the east a little over 100 meters.  On the map below the crosses and cross base are indicated by the three circles (lower right corner). 

The map is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.


Kilteel

Fragmentary cross:  The cross consists of a partial shaft, probably from the head of the cross, a detached arm, and a possible base.  Harbison dates it to the 12th century.

West face:  There is a raised but apparently uncarved panel.

East face:  There is a raised lozenge-shaped panel.  Riordain suggested it may have been intended to bear a crucifixion scene.  (Riordain, p. 86)  Harbison suggested it might bear interlace.  The lozenge was a symbol known to represent "Christ, the Logos, the second person of the trinity." (Richardson, p. 24)  Harbison also noted an undecorated panel on the detached arm.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 135)


Base:  Riordain identifies arcading with round arches on the south and  east sides of the base which he presumed to continue all around the base.  He noted that arcading does not seem to appear on any other Irish crosses.  He explains that the arcading is similar to that on the Canon Tables in the ancient manuscripts.  (Riordain, p. 87)

This arcading can be seen clearly in the photo to the right.  (Source of photo, Riordain, unnumbered page between p. 86 and p. 87) 



Getting There:  See Road Atlas page 35 4 D.  From Naas take the R410 southeast 5-6 km.  Then take a left on the  L2021 to Rathmore and on to Kilteel.  The cross is near the L2021 on your right (south).  The cross and base are actually in a field and there is no clear way to reach it other than to climb a barbed wire fence.  If  you go down the side road that borders the field you will see some ruins and a walled graveyard in the field.  It is possible to get across there without as much trouble and walk up the field to the cross site.  See the map to the right (lower left).

The map to the right is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.

Moone

The Site:

The Irish name for this site is Moen Choluim-chille, where “moen” refers to defensive walls and “Choluim-chille” refers to Saint Columba.  Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Moone church

Tradition states that it was St. Columba who founded the monastery here.  The Book of Lismore, an early fifteenth century Irish text has the following entry:  “Thereafter Colomb went to Leinster and left many churches which he founded with them, including Druim-Monach and Moen and many others.’”  (Stokes and Westropp, p. 542)  The founding is thought to have dated to the time following the Synod of Drumkeatt, held in 575, for which Columba returned to Ireland from Iona.  (Stokes and Westropp, p. 543)  Another legend links the decision to found a monastery there to the prayers of St. Brigid of Kildare.  She along with St. Patrick and St. Columba is a patron saint of Ireland.

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Moone church

Moone is mentioned only twice in the Annals of the Four Masters.

1014, Colum Ua Flannagain, Abbot of Maein-Choluim-Chille, (died).

1040, Maein-Choluim-Cille, etc., were plundered by Dairmaid . . . and he carried many prisoners from the oratories.  (Stokes and Westropp, p. 544)

The photo above shows the north side of the old church.  That to the right shows the view from the west end of the church looking east.  The partial roof has been constructed to protect the crosses from the worst effects of the weather.

The Saint:

Much has been written about St. Columba.  He was born in County Donegal in 521and studied under St. Finnian at Clonard.  His school was noted for sanctity and learning.  Columba was one of twelve students of Finnian who became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.  He founded a number of monasteries prior to his exile from Ireland.  He then founded the monastery at Iona in Scotland in 563.  As noted above, he returned for the Synod of Drumkeatt, after which he remained in Ireland for a time and founded other monasteries including the one at Moone.  He then returned to Iona where he died in 597.

The Granite Cross

Margaret Stokes made the following identifications of the images on the Moone Cross.  In general they are consistent with the assessment of Peter Harbison.  Some differences in interpretation will be discussed below.  In her description below, what Stokes identifies as the north and south sides appear to be reversed from the actual.  The identification for photos below will reflect the actual orientation.  Chart below from (Stokes and Westropp, pp. 544-5).

East Face

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, East face, base

The Base with Daniel in the Lion’s Den; the Sacrifice of Isaac and Adam and Eve.  (See photo to the left.)

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, East face, shaft

The Shaft contains five panels (see photo to the right).  They are identified by Harbison as follows:  

E 4:  An animal head in each corner emerging from a single boss.

E 5:  A contorted beast.

E 6:  Variation of E 4

E 7:  Animal heads emerging from two bosses.

E 8:  Animal heads emerge, “two rising and two falling, and each group holding a human head . . . between their open jaws.”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 154)

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, East face, head



The Head contains an expansive image of Christ.  While Stokes interprets this as the Crucifixion, Harbison sees it as an image of the Risen Christ.  He bases this in part on the presence of a crucifixion scene on the west face and the absence of other images typically related to the crucifixion or Last Judgment.  (See photo to the left.)

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, South side


The South Side (according to Stokes)

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, South side upper base

The Base contains three panels:  The Multiplication of Loaves and Fish; The Flight into Egypt; and the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace.  (See the photos to the left.)  

The Shaft is described quite differently by Stokes and Harbison.  I do not have clear photos of these panels, but they can be described as follows.

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, South side, middle base

Harbison:  Void; Winged Griffin; Void; Goose (?); Void; Contorting animal; Void; Angel in a frame.  Under the arm:  a human figure in a frame.  End of Arm:  a human figure in a frame.  Top:  probably a human figure in a frame.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 155)

Stokes:  Not identified; Winged Horse; Bird; Dolphin; Winged head; Figure with hands crossed; Winged figure.  See the chart above.

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, South side, lower base

It will be clear from comparing the number of identifications above that Stokes and Harbison divide the panels in different ways.  Neither provide an illustrated guide.

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, West face




West Face

Harbison and Stokes are in essential agreement regarding the identification of the images on the west face of the cross.  They are illustrated to the right and below.

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, West face, upper base

The Base contains two panels:  The Twelve Apostles and the Crucifixion.  (See the photos to the left.)



Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, West face, shaft


The Shaft has four panels on the main section and another panel on the lower portion of the segment of the cross that contains the head.  

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, West face, lower base

As noted above, Stokes identifies these from bottom to top as a horse, a hyena, a stag, an ox and ass, and a quadruped.

Harbison, on the other hand identifies them as "a prancing animal, an animal with its head twisted awkwardly sideways, a stag, two quadrupeds, one above the other, and a prancing lion.”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 155)

Stokes suggests these images came from a bestiary and may have symbolic meaning.    The two quadrupeds may represent the ox and ass of the Nativity.  The stag below them could be a reminder of Psalm 42:1 “As the hart pants for streams of water, so pants my heart for you O Lord."

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, West face head

The Head has a lozenge on the lower arm, figures that Stokes identifies as St. Mary and St. John on the arms and a pattern of interlinked spirals on the top arm.  In the center is a whorl pattern with animal-heads emerging from it.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 155)  (See the photo to the right.)

The lozenge was a symbol known to represent Christ, the Logos, the second person of the trinity.  (Richardson, p. 24)

North Side

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, North side, upper base

The Base has two panels as illustrated to the left and an upper panel illustrated to the right below. 

The lower panel of the base contains what Stokes refers to as Serpents and Swine.  Harbison describes it as “a six-legged animal with a lion-like head at each end.  The body bears two spiral whorls from each of which two serpents arise to interlock with one another above the beast’s back.  Apocalyptic?”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 155)    

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, North side, lower base

The next scene up Stokes describes as human forms, animal heads.  Here Harbison is more precise.  He identifies the scene as the temptation of St. Anthony.  Anthony stands in the center with creatures with goat-like heads on either side.

The third scene on the base represents St. Paul and St. Anthony breaking bread in the desert.  That’s according to Harbison.  Stokes interprets this scene as the Three Persons of the Trinity.  Harbison’s interpretation is to be preferred as the scene closely resembles other scenes on the crosses that clearly represent the two saints sharing bread brought by a raven.

The Shaft has five panels, three of which are blank.  The other two contain, from the bottom of the shaft to the top, a strange quadruped and a lion with an open mouth, perhaps roaring.  (See the photo above right.)

The Head:  I don’t have a decent photo of the north side of the head.  On the upper shaft is a heart-shaped design and a possible animal head that Stokes identifies as a dolphin.  Above that is a blank panel then an angel.  Harbison identifies the rest of the north side of the head as follows:  “Underside of Arm:  A long-robed figure moving toward the left.  End of arm:  A small figure.  Top:  Possibly a human figure.”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 156)

The Cross Fragments

Three fragments of a cross have been placed on display near the large cross.  There is one arm, a part of the top arm and a partial shaft.  A display panel at the site demonstrates how the fragments fit together.  The images to left and right represent the west and east face respectively.

The Shaft is shown in the four photos below.  From left to right they are the west face, east face, north side and south side.

On the west face are interlocking spirals, a series of serpents and on the lower head a stag below and a prancing horse above.  

Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Fragmentary cross            Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Fragmentary cross                                       Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Fragmentary crossMoone, County Kildare, Ireland, Fragmentary cross

On the east face, not very clear, is a dog on the back of a stag, a rider on horseback, "a quadruped with its tail between its hind legs. and a quadruped with its long-eared head to the ground and its tail curling over its back" (similar to an image on the north side of the main Moone cross).  (Harbison, 1992, p. 156)

The Arm on the west face has two quadrupeds facing each other and, on the end of the arm a serpent.  On the east face is a centaur.  There is a human head over its back.

The Sides have spiraling interlace.  Moone, County Kildare, Ireland, Fragmentary cross

Getting There:  See Road Atlas page 45 2 B.  From Moone on the R448 take an unnamed road to the northwest.  The Moone Cross should be signposted.

The map to the right is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.

Old Kilcullen

The Site:

In ancient days, the area around the monastery was known as Caelen, Galon or Coalan, “from its being almost one continued wood; and the name is still retained in Kilcullen.”  (Enna, p. 228)

Tradition holds that the monastery at Old Kilcullen was founded by St. Patrick (it is now considered that it was Palladius instead of Patrick)  It was long believed that Patrick left the church there in the care of Mac Tail as Bishop.  However Mac Tail died in 548 while the site was said to have been founded in 448.  (thestandingstone)  Another more tenable theory is that Patrick named Saint Iserinius Bishop.  Iserinius died in 469.  

Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, the monastery

The site may have been chosen because of its proximity to Dun Ailinne, a hill-fort that was once the seat of the Kings of Leinster.  (thestandingstone)  

The monastery and town were plundered and burned in 936 and again in 944.  The monastery and town must have been well populated in 936 as The Annals of the Four Masters, 936.14:  states "Amhlaibh, son of Godfrey, came to Dublin again, and plundered Cill-Cuilinn, and carried off ten hundred prisoners from thence.”  (Annals of the Four Masters)

The Annals of the Four Masters also offer us the names and death dates of a few of the leaders of the monastery.  In 898, Abbot Ailill died; in 935, Abbot Diarmaid died; in 948, Cormac Ua h-Ailella the airchinneach or steward of the church lands died; and in 962, Bishop Suibhne died.  (Annals of the Four Masters)

The site today includes a Round Tower that was damaged during the Battle of Kilcullen in 1798.  This battle was an early engagement in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  What remains stands a little over 30 feet in height.  Of special interest here are two High Crosses, both shafts with missing heads.  The remains of a church are also there.  An excavation of the church site was conducted during the summer of 1939.  (O h-Iceadha, p. 148)  In the photo above right the round tower, the graveyard and the footprint of the old church are visible.

Saint Iserninus:

During the 5th century Iserninus was credited, along with St. Patrick and St. Auxillius in establishing the Christian faith in the south of Ireland.  As noted above, more recent scholarship suggests that he worked with Palladius rather than Patrick.

Little seems to be known about his life.  He is associated with the lands of the Ui Cheinnselaig in Leinster.  His given name may have been Fith, and he may have been ordained a deacon at Auxere along with Patrick (Palladius?) and Auxilius.  He is also associated as founder with the church at Aghade in County Carlow.

The Crosses:

East Cross

This cross shaft stands nearly 10 feet in height and sits on a base.  The corners have roll mouldings and each side has panels.  Harbison suggests the panels “probably bore figure sculpture, but it is so worn that nothing can now be made out.”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 159)  In the photos below we see (from left to right) the East face, the South side, the West face and the North side.

Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, East Cross, East face     Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, East Cross, South side     Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, East Cross, West face     Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, East Cross, North side

The West Cross

Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, West faceOld Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, East Face

This granite cross stands about five feet in height.  The corners have roll moulding and each face contains panels with their own frames.

The East face, seen to the right, depicts the Twelve Apostles.  There are four figures in each of the three panels.  Unlike a similar image at Moone, the figures are not all just alike.  In the lower panel the two central figures each seem to hold a book.  In the middle panel the two on the right also appear to hold books.  It has been suggested these four represent the evangelists.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 160)

The West face, seen to the left, has a narrow panel at the bottom of the base that contains five heads.  Above this is an image that has been variously interpreted as Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, the Flight into Egypt and Balaam on his ass (for the story see Numbers 22-24).  Harbison favors the interpretation of Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 160)  The next panel up appears to depict David Slaying the Lion.  The next panel up contains a horseman.  Porter interpreted this and the previous panel as having to do with the hero CuChulainn.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 160)

Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, North Side

North Side  The north side of the cross, pictured to the left has an image of David Slaying the Lion at the bottom.  This may call into question the identification of the image on the West Face mentioned above.  This may lend some credence to Porter’s view that the image on the west face is related to CuChulainn.

The next panel up contains interlace.  Above that is a depiction of Cain killing Abel.

South Side  The photos below show, from left to right, the upper panel, the middle panel and the lower panel of the South side of the cross.  

The lower panel is described by Harbison as follows:  “On the bottom corners, two winged quadrupeds, seemingly with human faces, stand sentinel with their backs to the stem of a plant which seems to form an interlace in the center, from which two leaves emerge top right and left.  While the plant has a stem resembling those of vine-scrolls on other crosses, it seems unjustified to call this an inhabited vine scroll.”  (Harbison, 1992, p. 160)

The center panel contains interlace.  The upper panel has human interlace, formed by four fgures with one head in the center.  

Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, South side upper panel                Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, South side, middle panel                Old Kilcullen, County Kildare, Ireland, West Cross, South side lower panel

Getting There:  See the Road Atlas page 45, 1 C.  The site can be accessed from either the R418 or the R448 about 1km south of where the R448 and the R418 split.  

The map is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.


References cited:

Ballymore Eustace, http://www.culturalheritageireland.ie/index.php/heritage-sites-and-centres/128-the-medieval-church-site-at-ballymore-eustace-co-kildare-near-blessington-co-wicklow

Castledermot Info., Irish Walled Towns Network, http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/castledermot/castledermot-info Castledermot Info

Castledermot Town Walls, Conservation, Management and Interpretation Plan, Howley Hayes Architects and CRDS Ltd.,  January 2013.  http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/assets/Castledermot%20Town%20Walls%20CMIP.pdf

Comerford, M., “Castledermot:  Its History and Antiquities,” Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. 1, pp. 361-78, 1891-5.  https://books.google.com/books?id=kkg9AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA361-IA1&lpg=PA361-IA1&dq=Castledermot:++its+history+and+antiquities&source=bl&ots=U5x6uCCfzh&sig=au81OCP-PSfpMvyb2A4v-QbH2kA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjliZCHiq3PAhVk34MKHWAoC1YQ6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=Castledermot%3A%20%20its%20history%20and%20antiquities&f=false

CopticChurch.net, 1998-2005,  http://www.copticchurch.net/synaxarium/6_2.html

Enna, “Old Kilcullen, County of Kildare,”  The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 4, No. 185 (Jan. 16, 1836), pp. 228-229

Excavations:  http://www.excavations.ie/Pages/Details.php?Year=&County=Kildare&id=356

Harbison, Peter; The High Crosses of Ireland:  An Iconographical and Photographic Survey, Dr. Rudolf Habelt GMBH, Bonn, 1992.  Volume 1:  Text, Volume 2:  Photographic Survey; Volume 3:  Illustrations of Comparative Iconography.

Harte, Aidan and Richardson, Aine,"Archaeological Excavation Report 04E0750 - Castledermot town, Co. Kildare" Eachtra Journal, Issue 7, August 2010.  

O h-Iceadha, G., “Excavation of Church Site in Old Kilcullen Townland, Co. Kildare,” The Journal of the royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Seventh Series, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1941), pp. 148-151.

O Riordain, Sean P., Miscellaneous Discoveries in the Dublin Neighborhood, The Journal of the royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 77, No. 1 (Jul., 1947), pp. 84-88.

Richardson, Hilary, “Lozenge and Logos,” Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 24-25.

Smith-Christopher, Daniel L., The Additions to Daniel, Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections, The New Interpreter's Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Vol. VII, 1996.

Stokes, Margaret and Westropp, T. J., “Notes on the High Crosses of Moone, Drumcliff, Termonfechin, and Killamery.”  The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 31 (1896/1901), pp. 541-578.

Stokes, Margaret, “The Celtic Crosses at Castledermot,” Journal of the Co. Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. 1, 1891-1895, Dublin, 1895.  See Comerford above for link to this volume.

The Annals of the Four Masters, http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100005B/index.html

The Standing Stone, http://www.thestandingstone.ie/2015/07/old-kilcullen-round-tower-high-cross.html


 Barney McLaughlin 2012