Christian Articles Archive

Celtic Stone Crosses

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Glendalouch Celtic Crosses
Glendalouch Celtic Crosses

Origins as a Sun Cross

Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross developed from the sun cross, solar cross, sun wheel, etc., a pre-Christian symbol found in northwest Europe and Scandanavia — a cross inside a circle, or a four-spoked wheel. When Christianity came to Ireland and Scotland, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol to remind them of the cross on which their new Savior was crucified.

A pre-Christian symbol, the solar cross or sun-cross is found in neolithic rock carvings in France, Scandanavia, etc. 

An early sunwheel cross can be found at St. Dogmael's Abbey, Deyfed, west Wales (Pennick, The Celtic Cross, p. 25.).

Christ Pantocrator, dome mosaic (1090-1100 AD) from the Church of Daphne in Athens, shows Christ with sun-cross halo.

Ruthwell Cross (650 to 850 AD). The Cross is seventeen feet four inches tall and must sit in a well four feet deep to serve as the high cross for the church."With the comparable cross at Bewcastle it is undoubtedly the most important sculptural survival from Anglo-Saxon Britain and arguably from early medieval Europe" (Cassidy 3). 

Halwyn Wayside Cross
Halwyn wayside cross.

Cornwall Crosses

Wayside crosses are found at stopping places of missionaries, where they preached and prayed. Some of these were later marked as sacred places with crosses. Many ancient cross are found in Cornwall.

Isle of Man Crosses

A number of ancient stone crosses and cross slabs have been found on the Isle of Man at Kirk Andreas, Kirk Ballaugh, Kirk Braddan, Kirk Lezayre, Kirk Lonan, Kirk Maughold, Kirk Michael, and Kirch Onchan.



Irish Stone Crosses

Monasterboice Tall (or West) Cross.
The Monasterboice Tall (or West) Cross is made of sandstone, at 6.45 m. high, it is the tallest High Cross in Ireland. It is dated in the 10th century. This view shows the east side with the Last Judgment. This is the cross used for the Joyful Heart Renewal Ministries logo. More information.

England Stone Crosses

  • Aspatria Cross, St. Kentigern's Church, Aspatria (Cumbria)
  • Viking Cross, wheel-head Gosforth (Cumbria). Tall 4.5 metre cross, 940 AD. Cut down in 1789 to make a sundial base. Now restored.
  • Bakewell Cross, Anglian cross, churchyard, Bakewell, Derbyshire stone crosses

Norway Vestvågøy - 16, The Stone Crosses

Urswick (Cumbria)


Megaliths in England

A khatchkar (stone cross) in the churchyard at Hairavank Monastery (western shore of Lake Sevan).

Crosses surrounding the Rock of Cashel

Celtic Cross, unknown location

Celtic Cross

Highgate Celtic Cross

stone carvings at St Berrihert's Kyle

In the graveyard of St. Mary's Church, Whitby, overlooking the bay some 199 steps below, stands a modern cross clearly inspired by the Ruthwell Cross. Photo. Photo Caedmon Cross, Whitby. This photo is from the St. Hilda webpage

Agnus, Scotland

Agnus Scotland Stock Photos

Aberlemno church Pictish Cross slab Another. Another. Another.


Peace Cross, St. Albans Preparatory School, Washington DC. Close-up.

The Celtic Cross, by Nigel Pennick
Here's an excellent book on stone crosses. Order now.


The Megalithic Portal, photos and information on many ancient artifacts.

Clint Albertson, SJ, High Crosses of Ancient Ireland. Site rich with pictures.

Links to several celtic crosses.

Chris Tolley, Pre-Norman Stone Crosses and related monuments in the British Isles


Sun cross, Wikipedia article.

Nigel Pennick, The Celtic Cross: An Illustrated History and Celebration (London: Blandford, 1997)

A Brief History of the Celtic Cross in Cornwall, by Alex Everitt

More on St. Patrick and Celtic Christianity

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