An Bacall Buí (The Cross of Cong)

18 Sep

Exploring the museum and observing the artefacts was very eye opening for me. After this trip I felt like I understood Ireland much better. One artefact that struck out to me was the Cross of Cong.

This artefact is from the Early 12th century AD and is one of the ten major pieces in the museum. The cross is an Irish Christian ornamented cusped processional cross that would be carried before an archbishop. It was made for High King Toirrdelbach Ua Conchobair of Connacht

The Cross of Cong is such a magnificent treasure that by having it made O’Conor was displaying his wealth and power.

The True Cross was sent by Pope Callistus II to him. He could then claim that the Pope recognised him as king of Ireland. King Toirrdelbach was acting as a patron of the church. He was also claiming that Connacht should have its own archbishop, which it did not have at that time. By patronising the church in this way, he could count on some support from the church for his political ambitions.It was made from oak covered with plain sheets of bronze. Panels are decorated with animal interlace overlay these plain sheets. The relic which cannot be found would have been visible behind the rock crystal at the centre of the cross arms. A staff could be inserted at the bottom so it could be carried in procession.  The glass and enamel studs are characteristic of Irish Romanesque metalwork. It is also a reliquary, made to hold a piece of the True Cross. It can be seen as a weapon in the endless struggle for overlordship in Ireland. These ideals gave it more importance as an object of reverence and was definitely the reason for its intricate beauty. The cross was subsequently moved to Cong Abbey at Cong, County Mayo, that is how it received its name.

Ghana where I come from is a very religious as seventy percent of the population is either christian or muslim including. Therefore, it was no surprise for me to be interested in such a beautiful reliquary. The cross has Irish inscriptions all over it with the exception of one that is in Latin.

A translation here is:

“By this cross is covered the cross on which the creator of the world suffered

A prayer for Muiredach Ua Dubthaig, senior ecclesiastic of Ireland

A prayer for Tairdelbach Ua Conchobair, king of Ireland, by whom was made this ornament

A prayer for Domnall mac Flannacáin Uí Dubthaig from the borders of Connacht, successor of Commán and Ciarán, by whom was made this ornament

A prayer for Máel Ísu mac Bratáin Uí Echach, who made this ornament

+ By this cross is covered the cross on which the creator of the world suffered”

Akosua Sikayena Nsiah-Poku

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