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On the Origin of the Form of the Irish High Cross

Martin Werner
Gesta
Vol. 29, No. 1 (1990), pp. 98-110
DOI: 10.2307/767104
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767104
Page Count: 13
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Abstract

Of the many explanations advanced to account for the form of the ringed stone crosses of early medieval Ireland and western Scotland, Helen Roe's hypothesis of an origin in the Crucifixion/Resurrection imagery at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has been most convincing. However, the logic of Roe's proposal points to Insular initiative in assembling a variety of models for the constituent elements of the Irish high cross. That such initiative was unnecessary is suggested by an analysis of a fifth- to seventh-century Coptic textile in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This pall displays a Crux Gemmata set on a stepped base with a wreath of leaves and fruit centered around the crossing. Originating at the Holy Sepulchre and modified in Egypt, this cross arrangement was most likely introduced to the British Isles before the mid-eighth century. There is evidence to suggest that it was at the Columban monastery of Iona that this imported Golgotha Cross composition was replicated to serve as inspiration for the monumental "Celtic" crosses.

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