The Celtic Cross Collection – Part II
We are wrapping up our blog series highlighting our Celtic Cross Collection. Last week, we explored the history of our St. Cuthbert, Kilklispeen, and Skinnet Crosses. We now invite you to delve into the stories behind and meanings of our St. Ninian, Scriptures, and St. Brigid Crosses.
St. Ninian Cross
Our St. Ninian Cross is based on a 10th century design carved as a decorative motif on a large stone panel. This squared knot design also appears in a Celtic manuscript illumination.
St. Ninian, the feast of whom is celebrated on September 16th, is said to have been the man who first brought the Christian faith to Scotland. He is also acknowledged as Scotland’s first saint. Although born a Briton, St. Ninian studied in Rome before being ordained. His monastery in southern Scotland was a unique one – it was made entirely of stone. Historically referred to as “Casa Candida” (Latin for “the white house,” in reference to its white color), the church still stands today under the modern name of “Whithorn.”
As with St. Cuthbert, many posthumous miracles were attributed to St. Ninian. There are accounts from as far back as the 7th century of everyone from commoners to royalty making pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Ninian. According to BBC.com, “In the 14th Century it is said a dying King Robert the Bruce went there to pray for a cure from leprosy. Two centuries later, King James IV spent eight days walking to the shrine, and is said to have distributed money to the poor as he travelled.”
Our St. Ninian Cross is a square Celtic knot , also known as a “shield knot.” This design is believed to protect or heal the wearer. While typically associated with the Celts, these never-ending knots have roots in early Byzantine designs and only began to pop up in Celtic art in the 5th century.
Like the Kilklispeen Cross, our Scriptures Cross is based on one of Ireland’s high crosses. A replica of the west face of the 9th century Cross of the Scriptures in the cemetery at Clonmacnoise (Co. Offaly, Ireland), this beautiful design depicts vital scenes from the Crucifixion.
In the center of the cross we see Christ crucified. To the left of Him is the the Virgin Mary and to the right, St. John the Evangelist. In the panel above the crucifixion we see the Last Supper. In the first panel below the crucifixion we see the arrest of Christ, in the second panel we see the scourging of Christ and in the third panel we see two guards at the tomb being approached by Martha and Mary.
At 4 meters (approximately 13.12 feet) tall, the Scriptures Cross is a remarkable example of an Irish high cross. As inscribed on the cross itself, it was carved by Abbot Colman to honor the death of King Flann in the 9th century. And, thanks to the visitors center at Clonmacnoise, the cross has been well-preserved.
The high cross that stands at the Clonmacnoise site is not the original Cross of the Scriptures, but rather a replica. The original cross is kept in the center itself, protecting the historic piece from erosion, weather, and damage from delinquent visitors.
This is fitting with the cross’ history – historians speculate that high crosses may have been originally created to withstand damage or human interference. During Viking raids in Ireland, small silver, gold, and jewel-encrusted crosses (and other relics) were easily plundered. A 13′ cross made of stone, on the other hand, is not so easy to steal and lacks material value in the secondhand market. Whether this origin of the high cross is the truth or a fun, apocryphal story, Clonmacnois was raided five times in the 9th century alone, yet the Cross of the Scriptures still stands.
St. Brigid Cross
While much has been written about St. Brigid, primary historical data on her is scarce. The daughter of a wealthy man and a slave, Brigid is believed to have been born in Kildare around 457. A consecrated virgin of Christ, Brigid dedicated her life to Christian service and traveled throughout Ireland, carrying on St. Patrick’s work of conversion (although it is not clear if the two had ever met).
There are many legends and stories telling the tales of Brigid’s generosity, strength, courage, faith, and love for all of God’s creatures. There are also many miracles of healing attributed to Brigid; the best-known is the story of her visit to a dying Pagan chieftain. While Brigid prayed for the man, she plaited rushes (long, hollow, stem-like leaves) into a beautiful cross. She explained the Christian symbolism of the cross to the man who was so moved by her story that he converted and was baptized before his death.
Our St. Brigid Cross features the familiar square design of this plaited cross. The arms and center of the cross are is beautifully handcrafted to represent the individual woven rushes.
It is customary on February 1st (the date of St. Brigid’s birth and death) to plait these crosses and hang them in the home in hopes that they will protect the household. The cross is also associated with the beginning of spring and the birth and renewal that come with the season. The tradition of plaiting what came to be known as the St. Brigid Cross is thought to be from pre-Christian times (although it was not recorded, in writing, until the 1600s).
Want to weave your own cross to commemorate St. Brigid and protect the household? Check out the wonderful tutorial video below. (Can’t see the video? Click here to access it directly on YouTube).
St. Brigid Cross
St. Ninian Cross
Tags: Celtic Cross, Celtic cross history, Irish High cross, Scriptures Cross, St. Bridget, St. Ninian Cross
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