Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ahenny High Crosses, County Tipperary

 Located near to the village of Ahenny in County Tipperary you can find two of the most important high crosses in Ireland. The crosses are inside a small graveyard with a church dedicated to St. Crispin, this churchyard presumably sits on the site of an important early medieval monastery. No traces above ground can be seen of this early monastery, apart from the two high crosses.

The North Cross
The crosses are part of the Ossory group of high crosses and are thought to be two of the earliest examples in Ireland, and likely to date as early as the 8th Century AD. They are different to most other high crosses in that instead of depicting biblical scenes, they have elaborate decoration consisting of panels of interlacing spirals and geometrical shapes.

They appear to be replicating decoration found on earlier metalwork crosses, possibly suggesting that these crosses are important in tracing the development of Irish high crosses from small decorative metal crosses to the large stone examples depicting biblical scenes such as the fine examples at Monasterboice Co. Louth or Castledermot in Co. Kildare. That the crosses at Ahenny are replicating in stone what was in metalwork is most clear when you see the five rounded bosses on the cross heads which clearly imitates the enamel or glass studs on the metal examples.
The South Cross

The base of each cross has been heavily weathered and is extremely difficult to make out today, but it is believed that the North Cross base depicts a chariot procession, a funeral procession, Adam naming the animals and the mission of the apostles. The South Cross base is thought to depict hunting scenes, Daniel in the Lions Den and The Fall of Man.

Both crosses also have removable stone caps, possibly representing Bishop's mitres, these caps seem to be a feature of the Ossory group of High Crosses. 

To get to Ahenny, travel from Carrick-on-Suir on the R697 heading north for approximately six kilometres. Turn left at Scrogh Bridge then take the next right. Travel about two kilometres down this road to just past the church. The crosses can be seen in the middle of a small graveyard, located in a field just outside the small village of Ahenny.

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