Roscommon Crosses

The crosses of County Roscommon include a complete Latin cross at Cloonshanville, fragments at Emlagh and the head of a cross at Ogulla.  The location of County Roscommon is indicated by the red star on the map to the right.

Cloonshanville Cross

The Site

An ancient church was apparently founded at this location by Commituis or Cornedus, a disciple of St. Patrick who was described as bishop of Cluain Seanmhaoil.  (Sweetman, p. 83)  This would place the foundation of the church or monastery in the 5th or early 6th century.  Nothing appears to be know of the history of this early foundation.  Later, in 1385, the Dominican prior of the Holy Cross was founded in the area.

The Cross

Following an archaeological dig, the cross was set in a concrete base.  Previously it sat in a shallow depression in the bedrock.  The cross is of a rough laminated sandstone.  The cross stands just under 13 feet in height and is just over 27 inches across the arms.  Sweetman suggests a 12th century date for the cross.  (Sweetman, p. 84)  Harbison notes that the cross may be later as it stands near a 14th century Abbey.  He includes it in his listing of Irish High Crosses, giving it the benefit of the doubt.  (Harbison, 1992, p. 59)  It stands at a distance from the abbey and may have been a termon cross, marking a boundary.

Each face of the cross has a large and crudely made boss at the crossing of the shaft and arms.  

The photos left and right above show the cross prior to the beginning of excavation.  (Sweetman, pp. 75-76)  The photo above center shows the cross after excavation.  (Historic Environment Viewer) 

Resources Consulted

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.

Sweetman, David, “Archaeological Excavation at the Cross of Cloonshanville, Co. Roscommon”, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 38 (1981/1982), pp. 83-87.

Emlagh Cross Fragments

The Site

Emlagh shows up in the literature as Imliuch Each, Imliuch Equorum and Imliuch Brocadha.  The latter name refers to the saint who tradition says founded the church there.  (Connellan, p. 140)  In the Tripartite Life, the Annals of the Four Masters, the Martyrology of Aengus, the Martyrology of Gorman and the Martyrology of Tallaght, Emlagh is mislocated from Roscommon to County Mayo.  (Connellan, pp. 138-139)  

A church was founded there by St. Brocaidh (Brocaid) at the direction of St. Patrick.  This must have taken place during the late 5th century.  Broach was first ordained as a priest and later consecrated a bishop.  While this made Emlagh a bishopric for a time, there is no evidence that it continued as such following St. Brocaidh’s death.  (Connellan, pp. 143-144)  Emlagh was a monastic foundation during at least part of its history as demonstrated by a passage in the Annals of the Four Masters. “Domhgnasach, abbot of Imleach Each [died].”  (Annals of the Four Masters, M757.6)

The Fragments

The descriptions that follow are all based on the work of Harbison, 1992, pp. 86-87.  The photos below are from Harbison, 1992, Vol. 2, Figs. 269-272.  The four fragments represent parts of at least three crosses.

Fragment 1:

Shaft:  This is the second tallest of the fragments, the one with a cross-head attached.  The shaft is 37 inches in height.  On one face there is an interlace in relief, on the other is an interlace with circular and spiral ornaments above it.  The sides are not decorated. 

Cross-Head:  This cross-head is not related to any of the shaft fragments.  It is about 18 inches in height and 25 inches across the arms.  There is no ring.  On each face is a boss that is encircled by at least one ring.  On the east face there is a smaller boss on one arm and one at the bottom of the head as well.  On the west face there may have been interlace.




The four fragments are placed together on a platform.  The image above left is Fig. 269, a view from the east.  The image to the right is Fig. 270, a view from the south.




Fragment 2:  This is the tallest of the fragments.  It is just over 39 inches in height.  There is interlace in relief on the east face and incised on the west face and both sides.  Mortise holes on the sides cut into the interlace and are probably the result of a repair.

Fragment 3:  This shaft fragment may fit with Fragment 2.  It stands 33 inches in height.  The north face has what appears to be a fret pattern.  The south face has interlace and three loop or Stafford knots.  Each side has incised interlace.



The photo to the left is Fig. 272, a view from the north.  That to the right is Fig. 271, a view from the west.






Fragment 4:  This is the smallest of the shaft fragments and may be the top of Fragment 1.  It stands 18 inches in height.  At the top there is a small section of the ring.  The east face has interlace in two panels.  The west face may have had interlace.

Resources Consulted

Annals of the Four Masters, http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100005A/index.html

Connellan, M. J., “St. Brocaidh of Imliuch Brocadha”, The Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 23, No. 3/4, (1949), pp. 138-146.

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.

Ogulla Cross

The Holy Well at Ogulla is reputed to the Cliabach Well where St. Patrick baptized Eithne and Fidelma, daughters of King Laoghaire of Tara.   Near the well is a replica of the Ogulla cross-head.  The original is now in the custody of the National Museum.  The replica is located near the holy well of Ogulla near a large tree.

Kelly described the cross and offered photographs in articles for the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1993 and 1994.  The fragment was the center of a cross-head and is badly damaged.  On one face there is a fragment of a Crucifixion scene with the head of Jesus in the center of the head.  On the other face there is a boss at the center with a petal-like design surrounding it.  (Kelly, 1993, pp. 154, 156) 

There is a small cross-base that may or may not be related to the cross-head in the southeast corner of the graveyard at Ogulla, across the road from the well.  It stands 11 inches in height and is 29 by 21 inches at ground level.  (Kelly, 1993, p. 154)

There is general agreement that the fragment and base date to the 12th century.  The photo to the right was provided to Kelly by the National Museum for her article in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1994.  (Kelly, 1994, p. 214)

Sources Consulted

Historic Environment Viewer, http://webgis.archaeology.ie/historicenvironment/.  County Roscommon, Cross:  High Cross, Ogulla.

Kelly, Dorothy, “Cross at Ogulla, County Roscommon,” The Journal of the royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 124 (1994), pp. 213-214.

Kelly, Dorothy, “Some Remains of High Crosses in the West of Ireland,”  The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 123 (1993), pp. 152-163.

 Barney McLaughlin 2012