Celtic Crosses

Historical Background

The Celts once dominated the whole of the European continent, but successive invaders pushed them back to the western seaboard of Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Cornwall and Wales. They left no written record of their culture, but their traditions were passed down through the generations by language, poetry and heroic legends until finally recorded in writing, centuries later. The cultural heritage of their art is preserved in the artifacts which still survive and the Celtic spirit is still strong in these places. Wales is the strongest of the old Celtic languages, and indeed in some areas is the first language spoken. It is in one of these villages that this beautiful collection of jewellery is designed and produced. (Should you choose to buy something, you will find included a description of the article - significance, origin etc.- written in both English and Welsh!).

Just as the Celts drew inspiration from their surroundings, so these designs are based on traditional Celtic motifs found in the region. Christianity was embraced wholeheartedly so that in the period from the 8th to the 11th century it was a golden age for Celtic Christian art. Carved stone crosses and the elaborate illustrated Gospels of the great monastic colleges were richly decorated (eg. The Book of Kells in Ireland). The work of the artist monks was regarded as a form of worship, often involving a lifetime of religious devotion. While the rest of Britain was still in what is known as the "Dark Ages", the monasteries were not only religious refuges but highly sophisticated centres of education and political power. It was here that what remained of the Celtic heritage of Britain and Ireland was for the first time recorded for posterity in writing.

Celtic Crosses are found in all shapes and sizes, in ancient churchyards, on pathways, cross roads and mountainsides throughout the Celtic countries. The earliest date back as far as the 6th century and consist of crudely incised cross shapes on standing stones. These standing stones had often been regarded as holy by the druids and were Christianised by modifying the shape of the stone or carving a cross on its surface. These ancient stone crosses are still very much sacred stones today and many are believed to have healing properties. The circles included in some of the cross designs are said by some to represent 'eternity'.

The Breton Cross

25 silver 97 9ct gold

This style of cross is also found throughout the celtic countries, but especially in Brittany (N W France) and Cornwall (S W England). It is not clear where the style originated, since there was a great deal of emigration from the one region to the other, first from Brittany to Cornwall and then in reverse when the Anglo Saxons invaded the British Isles. The delicate ends of the arms are described as 'trilbed' and they signify the Celtic importance of the number three as well as the Christian Holy Trinity.

The Welsh Cross

25 silver 114 9ct gold

A typical early ring cross, of the type found especially in Wales and Ireland. These crosses were usually carved from stone, and could be quite large - the base of the cross would often be decorated with Christian images or celtic motifs. The pattern is sometimes called a "Sun Cross".

The St Patrick Cross

27 silver 131 9ct gold

This complex and interlaced cross design is based on a carved stone cross at Carndonagh in Ireland. There is a legend that St Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland - you could say that he put them all in this cross!

The St Cadfan Cross

25 silver 105 9ct gold

This design is taken from a memorial stone to King Cadffas of Gwynedd, who died about 625 AD. There is an incscription on the stone which reads [actually in Latin] 'King Cadfan, the wisest and the most renowned of all Kings'. The stone is also significant because the style of lettering proves that there was contact between Wales and continental Europe at this time, even though the Anglo Saxons had conquereed most of modern day England.

The St David Cross

25 silver 88 9ct gold

This design is based on an incised 7th Century stone found at Llanddewi-brefi, a small village in N W Wales. According to legen, St David once preached there, and the ground rose under his feet to form a perfect hill, so that everyone could see and hear him. St David (Dewi Sant) is the patron saint of Wales, even though he was probably an Irishman (on the other hand, St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was probably a Welshman!).

The Strata Florida Cross

25 silver 97 9ct gold

This is based on incised stones found at Strata Florida Abbey, near Tregarron (N W Wales). The abbey is now open to visitors and you can see the original crosses for yourselves.

The Langyfelach Cross

29 silver 152 9ct gold

This design is based on a large stone slab, decorated with a cross, which was found at Llangyfelach Church in south Wales. The knotwork of the centre cross motif is based on the triquetra or 'Trinity' knot, a favourite motif of Christian Celtic art, while the circle is made up of double-beaded single twists. A cast of the 9th century stone can be seen at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
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