Irish High Crosses


The first monastery in Ireland is believed to be founded by St. Patrick in the year 432. This foundation is marked today by the 13th century protestant cathedral which now bears his name. A number of high cross fragments have been found in and around this cathedral. Outside the east end of the Cathedral stands a weathered granite High Cross dating from the 10th or 11th centuries. It was relocated to this location in 1897 from the busy centre of Downpatrick. The cross consists of a cross head and shaft mounted on a modern base. The figure sculpture on the cross, 2.38 m tall, is so worn that it’s interpretation is difficult. According to Dr. Peter Harbison, the east face may show a highly unusual selection of scenes illustrating the early life of the virgin Mary, similar to that at Duleek in Co. Meath. The head bears the crucifixion with the thieves. The west face is even more worn and the only scenes that may be identified with some likelihood are an Adam and Eve at the bottom of the shaft and a last judgment scene on the head.

East face


The vestibule of the cathedral contains fragments of two crosses bearing interlace and spiral ornaments. Built into a west facing wall in the south aisle are the heads of two twelfth century crosses; each bears a figure that may represent St. Patrick. It is belived that St. Patrick’s remains were discovered here in the 12th Century.

Although the exact spot of his burial is not certain, a granite slab from the nearby Mourne Mountains put in position by the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club in 1900 serves as a Memorial Stone. It is also believed that he is buried alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba, although this has never been proven.

Situated: As you approach the town on the A7 from the South, you will see the Cathedral on a hill to your left. When the road bends sharp left and changes to Irish Steet take the next left onto English Street, the Cathedal stands at the end of this road.

Google Map.

Discovery OS. Map 21 J 4823 4452.

Longitude: 5° 43' 16" W

Latitude: 54° 19' 40" N

Last Visit: April 2008.

Nearest High Crosses featured on this website

Kilbroney: 39 Kilometres SW.

Armagh 80 Kilometres West.

Donaghmore 90 Kilometres WNW.


NB: Since my visit the High Cross has been been restored and moved to the Down County Museum in Downpatrick. An exact replica has been placed in the original location.

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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