High Crosses:  Preface 

Ardane High Cross, County Tipperary, Ireland

 High Crosses

An Introduction


Rev. Barney R McLaughlin

Ardane, County Tipperary

Above, one of two cross heads in a small circular enclosure.



In the late 1990’s my wife and I vacationed in New Mexico.  While in Santa Fe we visited the art museum at the Institute of American Indian Arts.  We viewed a video program there on Native American spiritualities of the Southwest.  Toward the end of the program one Native American spiritual leader made a comment that grabbed our attention.  It went something like this:  “Many white people come to the Southwest wanting to learn about our spiritual traditions.  I ask them: Why not learn about your own?”

Kilfenora, Cross in the Field, County Clare, Ireland

We began thinking about what our spiritual tradition is.  Our denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is one of the many branches of Protestant Christianity.  It was born on the frontiers of the United States of America in the early 19th century.  So, we could trace our religious heritage to the frontiers of the early 1800s.  We could go back farther, to the Scottish Presbyterian background of the primary founders of our religious movement, and back still farther to the Reformation.  In the course of our seminary educations we had both followed parts of this path.  But what did we know about our cultural spiritual heritage?  For both of us, our cultural heritage is predominantly Insular.  The vast majority of our relatives seem to have come to the Americas from England, Scotland or Ireland.  With a little research we discovered that during the Early Middle Ages the Celtic peoples of Ireland, Scotland and Wales developed “a regional flavour in their religion” (O’Loughlin p. 1) that was in some ways unique.  Finding out more about this became our goal.  

In 2002, thanks in large part to a Lilly Endowment sabbatical grant; we were able to visit both Scotland and Ireland on a spiritual pilgrimage.  While there we visited a number of early Christian monastic sites including the monastery on the Isle of Iona in western Scotland (founded in 563 CE) and Clonmacnois in central Ireland (founded in 545 CE).

Our fascination with what is sometimes referred to as the “Celtic Church” led to subsequent visits in 2004 and 2013 (Scotland), 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2013, 2015 and 2017 (Ireland).  We have visited many early monastic sites, such as the Kilfenora Monastery in County Claire shown above.  The cross pictured is known as the Cross in the Field.  We have learned much about the character, theology and spirituality of their leaders.  In the process, I became intrigued with the Irish High Crosses.

My purpose here is to offer an introduction to the Irish High Crosses and open the opportunity for dialogue with others who share that interest.

 Barney McLaughlin 2012