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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 SiteCloonshanville, Co. Roscommon, graveyard

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 ruins of the Cloonshanville Abby are seen to the left.

Cloonshanville, Co. Roscommon, cross



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.

Cloonshanville, Co. Roscommon, cross

Each face of the cross, see the photo to the right, has a large and crudely made boss at the crossing of the shaft and arms.  There seems to be another smaller boss in the center of the head of the cross on the opposite side, see the photo to the left.

No other carving is visible. 



Getting There:  See the Road Atlas page 24 H 2.  Cloonshanville Friary is marked on the Road Atlas as an Abbey.  The site is signposted in Frenchpark along the R361 on the northeast side of town.  The sign directs you to the Cloonshanville Cemetery.  If you go past the Friary and follow the road for about 200m, the cross can be seen in a field to your right.  The location is marked by the white circle in the lower left-hand corner of the map.

The map is cropped from the 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

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon

The descriptions that follow are all based on the work of Harbison, 1992, pp. 86-87.  The four fragments represent parts of at least three crosses.  As seen in the photo to the right, there are three pieces of cross shaft seen from the right to the center of the photo.  Another fragment of a shaft, much shorter than the others is in the foreground to the left of the photo and behind it is a cross-head.  At least one other possible cross piece, either the top of a shaft or an arm of a head will be pictured below.



Fragment 1:

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 1Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 1



Shaft:  This is the second tallest of the fragments.  The shaft is 37 inches in height.  On one face there is an interlace in relief, as seen in the photo to the left.  On the other is an interlace with circular and spiral ornaments above it as seen in the photo to the right.  The sides are not decorated. 




Cross-Head:  The 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.  This is pictured to the left below.  On the west face, pictured to the right below, there may have been interlace.

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, cross-headEmlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, cross-head








Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 2Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 2



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 as seen in the photo to the left, and incised on the west face and both sides as seen in the photo to the right and those of the sides below.  Mortise holes on the sides cut into the interlace and are probably the result of a repair.

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 2






Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 2












Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 3Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 3



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.  






Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Fragment 3

Each side has incised interlace.  Side 1 is seen to the right and side 2 to the left. It is the shaft that is partly hidden by the left arm of the cross-head.

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon











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, seen to the right, has interlace in two panels.  The west face, seen to the left, may have had interlace.

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 4

Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, Frag. 4









Emlagh cross fragments, Co. Roscommon, possible fragment


A possible arm fragment?  On one side of the plinth and built in is a stone that is of the same material as the cross fragments and looks like it could be an arm of a cross-head, either the upper arm or one of the horizontal arms.







Getting There:  See the Road Atlas page 24 GH 4.  This site is between Ballymoe and Castlerea east of the N 60. 

The turn off is 2km  south of Castlerea and 7km north of Ballymoe. The road you want is the L6645 and the sign for this is on the west side of N60, right across from the turn.  There is also a brown sign on the east side pointing to the Suck Valley Way (a hiking path). From here to the site it is a single lane road and it is 2-2 1/2km to the site.

You will quickly come to a Y—stay to the right. There will be a handcrafted wooden sign pointing to Ballentubber and the Suck Valley Way.  This is your direction.

Next you will come to a railroad crossing. For safety, follow the posted directions carefully. 

Follow the lane until the first opportunity to turn left—turn left.  Now follow the lane until you come to a white wall in front of a gated driveway and park there.  Go into the field across the way using the farm gate.  When coming and going please close the gate.  The cross pieces are visible mounted together on a plinth in the field.  They can be seen clearly from the gate.  

The map is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer.

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

Ogulla Cross-head, County Roscommon, Ireland

The Holy Well at Ogulla is reputed to be the Cliabach Well where St. Patrick baptized Eithne and Fidelma, daughters of King Laoghaire of Tara.   Near the well there is supposed to be a replica of the Ogulla cross-head.  It was not to be found on a visit in 2019.  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.Ogulla Cross-head, County Roscommon, Ireland

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) 

Ogulla Cross-head, County Roscommon, Ireland

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 photos were taken by the author on a visit to the National Museum. 

Getting There:  See Road Atlas p. 25 A 3.  The site of the original cross is located just west of Tulsk on a side road off the R367.  The original cross fragment is housed in the National Museum in Dublin, but for two years, starting in November 2018, the original is on display in the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre Museum in Tulsk.  A copy is said to be located at the site as noted above.  This is signposted as the Ogulla Shrine.  The copy of the cross-head was not readily visible and those asked knew nothing about it.    

The map is cropped from the Historic Environment Viewer






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