Almost three hundred Irish high crosses are known. The earliest stone crosses were probably derived from timber or composite wood and metal prototypes. Stone crosses were carved from one or more blocks of stone and are noted for the ring - originally intended for support - that encircles the arms and upper shaft. The majority are dated by means of their style to the ninth and tenth centuries.
Decoration and Inscription
A number have inscriptions which suggest dates for their construction or repair. In later stages high crosses have figure sculpture illustrating themes from the Bible and the gospels. Located primarily at early monastic sites, they served to mark sacred areas, to aid in the teaching of Christianity and as symbols of secular and ecclesiastical wealth. Similar crosses are found in Scotland with which the Irish church had close ties.
Why make replicas?
Irish high crosses were considered as some of the finest pieces of early medieval sculpture in Western Europe and there was a high demand in the early 1900s for plaster replicas. Examples were shipped for display in Boston, Chicago and as far as Australia.
Origins of High Crosses