Celtic Crosses are one of the more recognizable icons of Northern European culture. They’ve become popular on jewelry, graphic designs and tattoos, but many of us aren’t aware what they stand for. Their designs are based mainly on the eras they come from, and jewelry designers generally cherry pick and combine any elements they like from various points in history.

celtic cross designsHere, There And Everywhere
If you travel in Ireland, you’ll find them dotting the landscape – in cemeteries, at historical sites and, particularly in the west, sticking up out of the landscape here and there with no real explanation. You can also see them in Scotland, England and even in Brittany (France) and Galicia (Spain).

It’s sometimes said that Saint Patrick invented the cross and circle design often used on these monuments but combining a Christian cross with an image of the sun, considered an important source of life by pagans.

Where ever the idea for them may have emerged from, there were two distinct eras of Celtic Cross building. The first was from the 8th century up until about 1200. But the crosses surged in popularity again in the 19th century, when the Irish in particular began to erect them as monuments to their loved ones in cemeteries. Some of the first pieces of Celtic Cross jewelry are believed to have been made around 1899 on the Island of Iona, off Scotland.

celtic cross basis for jewelry designVarying Designs
Unlike traditional Latin crosses seen in Christian culture, Celtic Crosses usually include Celtic knot patterns.

The very oldest Celtic Crosses are called “Ionic” or “Moon High” Crosses (the latter name comes from Moone, Co. Kildare, where one of the largest old crosses in Ireland stands. Some of these date to as log as 5,000 years before the birth of Christ. Most contain the sun circle design.

To understand the patterns, about the best you can do is divide them into three essential categories. They’re distinguished more by their age than by any particular

Celtic High Crosses: Ceremonial stones at lease 800 years old.

Celtic Crosses but not High Crosses: Built from the 12th century onward. Usually a property line marker – often quite tall.

Modern Crosses: Grave markers. Any cross you see in a cemetery was probably placed in the late 1800’s or later.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *