Historic Impressions

Irish and Celtic Artifacts


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Durrow High Cross

Durrow High Cross

This magnificent 8th century Celtic cross from County Offaly, Ireland, depicts Christ in Majesty flanked by trumpeting and adoring angels and the Lamb of God, with additional Biblical scenes of Daniel and the Lion, David the Harpist, Abraham and Isaac and a scene which seems to depict the Trinity with the Word of God.  In addition, there are four Celtic knots and four spiralling bosses, perhaps symbolizing the four Gospels.  Durrow Monastery was founded in the 6th century by St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland.  This monastery also created the Book of Durrow, a treasured Celtic manuscript now housed in Trinity College, Dublin.


10" x 5"
greystone, red sandstone, Irish green



Killamery Cross

Killamery Cross

The east face of the 9th century Celtic high cross depicts entwined serpents, Celtic symbol of healing, and marigolds and triquetras in the shaft, both Christian motifs.  The four serpents, perhaps the four corners of the world or the elements, are issuing forth from the mouth of a primeval creature, the whole design possibly relating to resurrection and rebirth.  It is located in County Kilkenny, Ireland at the scenic ruins of a monastery reputedly founded by St. Goban Find.


9" x 4"
greystone, Irish green



St. Patrick and Columba Cross

St. Patrick and Columba Cross

This impressive 9th c. Celtic cross from Kells Monastery, Cty. Meath, is dedicated to the patron saints of Ireland, and depicts the crucified and risen Christ, surrounded by the four Evangelists.  It is the only surviving cross to feature all four Evangelistic symbols: the man for Matthew (the humanity of Christ), the lion for Mark (Christ's resurrection), the ox for Luke (Christ's sacrifice), and the eagle for John (Christ's divinity).  The site of this cross housed for many centuries another national treasure of Ireland, the Book of Kells, the illuminated Gospel manuscript now in Trinity College, Dublin.  Kells Monastery was founded by St. Columba, a patron saint of Ireland and one of the most important figures of the early Christian church.


10.5" x 4.75"
greystone



Clonmacnois Cross

Clonmacnois Cross

The famous 9th century Celtic cross of King Flann, High King of Ireland, depicts St. Columba between two angels, the Last Judgement, Christ with Peter and Paul and the founding of the monastery with St. Ciaran and King Dermot.


11" x 5.25"
greystone



Irish Lion

Irish Lion

From an antique Irish decorative wood carving, the lion has long been a symbol associated with royalty, courage and strength.  Lions are often placed at entranceways as guardians.


6.5" x 4.25"
walnut woodtone, greystone



Tullylease Cross

Tullylease Cross

Considered the finest Early Christian cross slab in Ireland, this 8th century artifact is found in the ruins of the monastery founded by St. Berichter in County Cork.  The cross consists of a labyrinth of key patterns and several bosses and has been compared to metal processional crosses as the possible inspiration for this kind of design in stone.


7.25" x 4.75"
greystone, Irish green



Fahan Mura Cross

Fahan Mura Cross

The 7th century Celtic interlace cross from the Fahan churchyard in County Donegal, Ireland, is thought to be one of the earliest versions of the famous Celtic sun cross designs in Ireland.  On the opposite side of the cross is the only Greek inscription found from early Christian Ireland reading "Glory and honour to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit".  A monastery was founded here by St. Colmcille in the 7th century which survived for 500 years.


7" x 4"
greystone, Irish green



Gallen Priory Cross

Gallen Priory Cross

The Gallen Priory cross, carved in high relief proud of a stone slab, is one the most unique designs on an Irish cross.  It depicts two coiled creatures creating a central spiral and issuing forth three faces and one standing figure, all with enigmatic, stylized features that are uniquely Celtic in the large eyes and pointed chin.  These four heads might have symbolized the elements or the corners of the world.  Four outer points with a center is also the design of every cross which mirrors the five original provinces of Ireland and was thus a mystical and important concept to the early Celts.  This 8th century ringed cross is from County Offaly, Ireland.


7.5" x 4"
greystone



Celtic Cat Gargoyle

Celtic Cat Gargoyle

The cat is based on a carving on the fabulous 12th century door of Clonfert Cathedral, Cty. Galway, Ireland.  This door is the finest surviving example of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture and sculpture, vying only with the carvings in Tuam Cathedral, also in Galway.  Clonfert is the foundation of the monastery of St. Brendan, patron saint of travellers and sailors.  Along with this single carving of a cat, many other beasts and heads guard the church.  In various Celtic beliefs the cat has supernatural powers and is used in divination.


5.5" x 3.75"
greystone



St. Patrick's Cross

St. Patrick's Cross

The ancient Irish cross from Carndonagh, Cty. Donegal, shows Christ in Majesty and pilgrims beneath interlace woven as the Tree of Life.  The knotwork was traditionally a protection device and is similar to the St. Brigid's crosses woven out of rushes.  Patrick is one of the patron saints of Ireland.  A native Briton, he was captured and served as a slave in the western part of Ireland.  After his escape from slavery, he returned to his native Britain, returning to Ireland after being told in a dream to return and preach Chrisitianity to the Irish.


10.25" x 4.25"
greystone



Irish Claddagh

Irish Claddagh

The claddagh is the Irish marriage symbol with the heart symbolizing love, life's purest impulse, the hands of friendship clasped around the heart, coming together to nurture and protect.  The crown is symbolic of loyalty, representing love's endurance throughout life.


8.5" x 5.75"
green, multi-color



Inishkea Crucifixion Scene

Inishkea Crucifixion Scene

This remarkable 7th century inscribed stone was found on a remote island in County Mayo, Ireland.  It was discovered on Bailey Mor, a large mound 500 feet in diameter and 60 feet high on which ancient monastic beehive huts and small square houses were found.  Depictions of the crucifixion in this Early Christian period are very rare, especially showing Christ with an Eastern-style loincloth as opposed to the robed figure more regularly found in Irish art.


6" x 4"
greystone



Triple Spirals of Life

Triple Spirals of Life

The symbol of life and energy, also associated with abundance and prosperity, is carved inside the 5000 year-old Newgrange passage mound in County Meath, Ireland.  Earth works such as Newgrange have been proven to be ancient solar observatories, whose construction can be said to symbolize the womb of the Goddess.  At Newgrange, the male solar deity in the form of light, penetrates the interior of the mound through a long tunnel once a year at the winter solstice.  The concept of triplism takes many forms in different cultures, the three faces of the Goddess, maiden, mother and crone; the Trinity; and many Celtic gods and goddesses such as Brigid, Macha and the three sons of Uisnech also take on a triple aspect.


6.25" x 5"
greystone



Castledermot North Cross

Castledermot North Cross

This charming 9th century high cross from Co. Kildare, Ireland, depicts Adam and Eve, the Temptation of St. Anthony, Abraham and Isaac, David the Harpist, Daniel and the Lions, the Persecution of St. Simon Magus and the Pilgrims on the Way to Emmaus.  The specific iconography of this cross betrays the close ties of the Celtic monks to Eastern and eremitic roots, as these scenes are dear to the more ascetic, less hierarchical nature of the Eastern (as opposed to Roman) and Celtic churches. Celtic scripture crosses such as these were erected for many reasons, as preaching and teaching posts in lieu of church structures, as monuments to the glory of God, as monastic boundary and protection devices and as memorials to specific individuals, living and legendary.  Two high crosses survive here at Castledermot, known as the North and South crosses.


8" x 4.5"
greystone



Castledermot South Cross

Castledermot South Cross

The 9th century south cross of Castledermot depicts a winding labyrinth pattern known as "Thor's hammer" and intertwined spirals inside a traditional Celtic sun cross.  A monastery was founded here by St. Dermot and a Viking presence in the area was strong.  The cross is located in County Kildare, Ireland.  Cormac Mac Cuilleannain, famous king of Cashel, was buried here after being killed in battle.


12.5" x 5.5"
greystone



Book of Durrow

Book of Durrow

This design is based on a carpet page from the Book of Durrow, a 7th century Celtic manuscript created at Durrow Monastery in County Offaly, Ireland.  Durrow was founded by St. Columba, one of the patron saints of Ireland.  The design features a central cross and three circles, perhaps symbolizing the Trinity, amongst Celtic knotwork.  The monastery also created the beautiful scripture cross which is still on site.  The book is now housed at Trinity College, Dublin, but was at one time used by local farmers who believed in its magical power to heal cattle and hence dipped the manuscript in the cattle water!


6.5" x 6.5"
Irish green, blue, antique brown



Sheela Na Gig

Sheela Na Gig

Taken from the famous 11th century church in Kilpeck, England, this Celtic Goddess figure is thought to have served both as a fertility symbol, a goddess related to death and rebirth and a protector against evil spirits.


7" x 5"
sandstone



Millstatt Moon

Millstatt Moon

From the amazing collection of images in Millstatt monastery, Austria, where Celtic mythological themes are evident, from the Celtic stylization of the faces, to the inclusion of knotwork and specific Celtic myths and figures on the pillars in the remarkably well-preserved atrium.  The city itself is named after the Celtic creation god, Mil, as it translates literally, "City of Mil." The moon and the sun figure prominently as Celtic motifs, as decorations on torcs and as specific deities.  In this case, the sun, moon and stars watch Millstatt monastery being given into the hands of Christ by its founder and are struck dumb (literally, they have no mouths) by this pious act.  Could this be an unconscious reference to the silencing of the ancient pagan beliefs? If so, these beliefs certainly speak loudly in the atrium with its giant, Celtic knotwork and an unusual scene of two men arising from the waves which must depict the two sons of Mil arising from the Great Flood of Noah (a typical amalgam of pagan and Christian tradition).  There is even an 8th century cross slab on location with interlaced cross, Celtic triquetras and palm leaves (tree of life symbols) flanking it.


7.75" x 4.75"
greystone



Millstatt Sun Face

Millstatt Sun Face

An enigmatic face peers through the rays of the sun, carved in the Austrian medieval monastery where symbols such as this indicate survival of Celtic art style in an area where Celts originated 2000 years before the 11th century date of these carvings (see Millstatt MOON and THE LOVERS).


5.5" x 5.5"
greystone



The Lovers

The Lovers

A charming early medieval carving inside Millstatt monastery in Austria, these lovers may represent Tristan and Isolde, the popular Celtic pair famous throughout Europe.  The tale of Tristan and Isolde was the most sung ballad and repeated tale of medieval times, and is the classic legend of star-crossed lovers that has been remade over the ages.  In this story, the nephew Tristan of Cornish King Mark is sent to Ireland to escort Isolde to her royal betrothed but Tristan and Isolde take the love potion intended for King Mark and are forever bound in love. Various escapades ensue but ultimately, through the vengeance of the king, Isolde believes Tristan dead and throws herself off the cliffs, at which Tristan himself commits suicide, unwilling to live without her but reaching her side before they both die.


11.5" x 9"
greystone



Irish Gargoyle

Irish Gargoyle

This charming little gargoyle is carved over the Hiberno-Romanesque arch at Clonmacnois Abbey, Ireland. Gargoyles were believed to protect churches from evil spirits and according to Celtic belief, the more heads the better.  This two-headed dragon guards both front and back.


7" x 4.25"
greystone



St. Brigid's Cross

St. Brigid's Cross

Legend says this cross was woven by the patron saint of Ireland to explain the Passion.  Its heritage extends to the Neolithic Age when it symbolized the four seasons. It is now hung over Irish doorways to protect home and hearth.  It is also related to the symbol of the "turning wheel" which symbolized the movement of the sun and is a design seen on Celtic crosses.


8" x 8"
Irish green, walnut brown



Reask Pillar Cross

Reask Pillar Cross

From the windswept Dingle Peninsula in Cty. Kerry, Ireland, this simple yet powerful testament to Christianity includes the inscription, "DNE", Domine meaning Lord.  If it is looked at in the landscape in which it was carved, one notices that the upper portion of the monument mirrors the horizon line, indicating an attempt to merge the monument with the surrounding landscape.


10.5" x 3.5"
greystone



Portrait of St. Patrick

Portrait of St. Patrick

A 15th century carving of the patron saint of Ireland from Cty. Louth.  Patrick, a Roman enslaved British nobleman who Christianized 5th century Ireland, was also her greatest champion and the first on record to oppose slavery.


12.25" x 4.5"
greystone



Glendalough Celtic Knot

Glendalough Celtic Knot

This deeply symbolic endless knotwork cross consisting of four triquetras, is from the 12th c. St. Saviour's Priory, Cty. Wicklow, Ireland, where St. Kevin's monastery was founded.


5.5" x 5.5"
greystone, Irish green



Celtic Gorgon

Celtic Gorgon

Carved on the pediment of an ancient temple by native Celts under Roman rule, the Gorgon is primarily a Celtic solar symbol under the guise of a Roman symbol, a male version of the snake-haired Medusa.  It is specifically located at what were the sacred springs of the goddess Sulis, in Bath, England.  As it was placed, the Gorgon served as a guardian as was traditional in Celtic sites while at the same time being acceptable as a Roman deity.  The style of the carving marks it as distinctly Celtic as does the inclusion of the snakes, itself an important Celtic animal, related to water, regeneration and rebirth which all tie into its location at thermal waters.


7.5" x 7.5"
greystone



The Gundestrup Cauldron

The Gundestrup Cauldron

The 1st century B.C. ritual cauldron was found in the Danish bogs and depicts Cernunnos, Celtic god of the hunt, with animal symbols of power, magic and fertility.  It is an extremely important artifact in deciphering many aspects of Celtic mythology.  This is the most commented upon panel of the cauldron in that it includes many intriguing hints about Celtic beliefs, not the least being the inclusion of Cernunnos, the antler-headed god.  The depiction of the stag god is so prevalent in artifacts throughout the Celtic world that Cernunnos appears to have been the main Celtic deity.  The shape-shifting aspect of Cernunnos in appearing as half man - half beast is certainly important and there are indeed many tales of changing shapes in Celtic mythology.  He occupies space here as Lord of the Animals, being the only forward facing relief on the panel.

The other animals are also interesting from a mythological standpoint, especially the ram-headed serpent held in Cernunnos' hand (the other holding a Celtic torc, symbol of kingship).  The horned serpent is a purely Celtic manifestation found in as far flung locations as prehistoric artifacts in Halstatt, Austria to horned serpent armlets in Scotland.

Also depicted are a stag, a wolf, two fighting lions, ibises and a boar.  The stag could suggest, like another panel on the cauldron where a god holds two stags in his hands, the god's mastery over his animal nature.  The wolf is also found on Celtic art and the boar is considered an important Celtic symbol of war. The ibises are a Middle Eastern motif and the lions look decidedly Oriental.

It is believed that the cauldron was commissioned by a Celtic tribe as a war offering and thrown in the bogs as an offering to the Gods.  In the Celtic belief system, a great deal of power and magic was to be found in bogs and around water and therefore much religious activity, including both offerings and human sacrifices surrounded these places.



12.5" x 6"
greystone, sandstone



Celtic Triple Face

Celtic Triple Face

This 15th century carving from Cornwall is a prevalent Celtic image going back to pre-Christian Celtic Europe.   Several tri-cephalic images have survived in Cornwall and the surrounding area but are rare in Britain.   As Celts mixed with Romans, the triple head was associated with Mercury, the god of prosperity.  Many Celtic gods and goddesses existed as a triad.  The head itself was greatly revered by the Celts as the seat of the life force and in mythology the severed head had powers of prophecy.  The number three had magico-religious significance and bestowed great power in many instances.


10" x 6"
earthtones



Celtic Crucifix

Celtic Crucifix

This historically important 9th century bible cover from Rinnagan, Cty. Roscommon, Ireland, shows strongly Celtic elements in Christ's face and robe of triple spirals and knotwork.  The original is housed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.


9" x 6"
antique brown



St. Brendan's Mermaid

St. Brendan's Mermaid

Located in 12th c. Clonfert Cathedral where St. Brendan's monastery was founded in the 6th century.  St. Brendan is the patron saint of travelers and sailors and is said to have converted the mermaids and sea serpents to Christianity, hence their appearance at the altar of this beautiful Hiberno-Romanesque church.  St. Brendan is even reputed to have sailed to the New World in his little ship.  The mermaid is also a symbol related to women and the Goddess.  This charming and enigmatic example holds the mirror and comb which were typical feminine symbols associated with mermaids.


8" x 6"
greystone




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