The Celtic Cross Collection – Part I
Here at Gallery Byzantium, we are “March”-ing into spring by celebrating our Celtic Cross collection. This collection features beautiful, intricate designs inspired by historic pieces found throughout the United Kingdom. We invite you to discover some of the timeless treasures found at the end of the rainbow as we delve into the history of our Kilklispeen, Skinnet, and St. Cuthbert Crosses.
Click here for Part II of this series and learn the histories of our Scriptures, St. Brigid, and St. Ninian Crosses.
Gallery Byzantium’s Kilklispeen Cross is a design replica of the pattern decorating the east side of the South Standing Cross in the Kilklispeen cemetery, County Kilkenny, Ireland.
The South Standing Cross is just one of many “high crosses” found throughout Ireland. High crosses are free-standing stone crosses characterized by a distinctive ring around the arms of the cross. There are, however, examples of high crosses without this identifying ring. Much like art, high crosses lack a clear-cut definition – you cannot unequivocally define them, but you know a high cross when you see one.
The South Standing Cross is one of two crosses that stand in the Kilklispeen Cemetery (although tradition states that there may have been a third at some point in time). Time, weather, and delinquent human interference have taken a toll on the sandstone cross (which dates from the early 10th century). While high crosses are usually topped by a conical cap of sorts (as the North Standing Cross has), the cone atop the South Standing Cross is missing. Erosion has also buffed away much of the beautiful Celtic carvings on the cross. However, as Sculptured Crosses of Ancient Ireland states, “what remains shows that this is the ruin of one of the most beautiful crosses in Ireland, rich as that country undoubtedly is in these monuments.”
Inspired by the beauty of the South Standing Cross, we have designed a stylized recreation of the original monument in our Kilklispeen Cross. The design is influenced by Celtic as well as Byzantine decorative motifs. As with the original South Standing Cross, the round projections at the center and on the arms of the cross symbolize the head, heart, hands, and feet of the crucified Christ, keeping with the high cross tradition of symbolizing important biblical events.
Compared to the beautifully imposing South Standing Cross, the 8th century Skinnet Cross may seem rather diminutive, but it shares the same intricate Celtic detail work as its Irish counterpart.
The original Skinnet Cross was a part of a Pictish cross slab discovered at the St. Thomas Chapel in northeast Scotland. The Picts were a group hailing from northern and eastern Scotland in the early medieval period. They were coined “Picts” by the Romans; the name deriving from “picti,” the Latin term for “the painted ones.” Without the Picts, Scotland (as we know it today) may never had existed. Their victory at the Battle of Dun Nechtain (Dunnichen) was one of the most decisive victories in Scottish history, marking Scotland’s independence from the Angles of Northumbria (who had controlled what is known today as Great Britain).
Pictish slabs, like the one featuring the Skinnet Cross, were carved on both sides and are as unique to Scotland as the high crosses are to Ireland. The original Pictish slab with the Skinnet Cross is now housed in the Caithness Horizons Museum (Thurso, Scotland).
Like its predecessor, Gallery Byzantium’s Skinnet Cross features an exquisite depiction of the Celtic never-ending knot, which symbolizes eternity. At the bottom of the cross is a rams horn design, an old Pictish symbol often used in early Celtic designs to symbolize Christ.
St. Cuthbert Cross
Our St. Cuthbert Cross is an impeccably designed replica of St. Cuthbert’s pectoral cross.
The original 6th century cross, which combines early Byzantine and Northumbrian design elements, was crafted in gold and set with garnets. The general design of the cross is relatively simple, much like St. Cuthbert himself. Cuthbert, the bishop of Lindisfarne, England, was dedicated to a life of prayer and missionary work. Towards the end of his life, he retired to a hermitage on Farne Island. It was after his death in the in A.D 687 that his legacy truly flourished.
Many miracles have been attributed to St. Cuthbert after his death. It was said that he posthumously chose his final resting place in the 8-9th century when his coffin was rendered immovable in a bend in a river. The Shrine of St. Cuthbert was thus built in that location and, to house the Shrine, the Durham Cathedral was erected. St. Cuthbert was also sought out for his posthumous healing abilities. Many people made pilgrimages to the Sshrine to be cured of sickness and ailments while others reported being miraculously healed after praying at one of the many churches dedicated to the saint throughout Great Britain.
Perhaps most famous is the miracle of St. Cuthbert’s incorruption. Throughout the centuries, many noted that St. Cuthbert’s body did not decay (on one famous occasion in the 16th century, King Henry VIII’s men were so moved by the uncorrupt saint that they ceased their destruction at Durham Cathedral).
Today, the relics of St. Cuthbert, including his pectoral cross, are preserved at Durham Cathedral. Although not currently on display, the Cathedral is undergoing a “period of environmental monitoring to ensure that the new, bespoke exhibition cases are maintaining the correct environment such precious objects require.”
Our replica of St. Cuthbert’s cross, true by its inspiration is elegantly set with a symmetrical enameled design (taking the place of the original cross’s opulent garnets) surrounding a central, cabochon garnet. The cross serves as a beautiful reminder that miracles can happen when least expected.
St. Cuthbert Cross
Tags: Celtic, Celtic Cross, Cross, History, In the Spotlight, Ireland, Jewelry, March 2017, Scotland
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