Ireland’s Greatest Treasure: The Cross of Cong

2 Oct

Last week, I visited and explored the National Museum of Ireland. The museum, located in the heart of Dublin, holds many archaeological artifacts which date back to as early as 7,000BC. The museum tells a magnificent story of the history of Ireland. The artifacts are displayed in seven different galleries which introduce the ancient civilizations of not only Ireland, but of other parts of the world.

One artifact that struck my attention while at the museum was the Cross of Cong. The cross is of gold color, with some signs of copper and silver. In the center, it has a large piece of rock crystal. The cross was first made in 1123 and encases a fragment of the True Cross (museum.ie). Before the cross was displayed at the museum, it was shown all across Ireland. The cross got it’s name because it was kept at the Augustinian Friary in Cong, County Mayo for centuries (museum.ie). 

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Turlough O’Conor, King of Connacht and High King of Ireland, asked that part of the true cross be kept in Ireland. He instructed that a shrine be made to fragment the True Cross, which came to be the Cross of Cong (museum.ie). Cong was an important church patronised by the O’Conors in the twelfth century (museum.ie). The cross was transferred from the Royal Irish Academy to the National Museum of Ireland in the 1880s (museum.ie).

The cross also contains inscriptions, which run around the side of the cross, beginning at the bottom left side (museum.ie). The inscription is in Latin and in Irish and translates to: “By this cross is covered the cross on which the creator of the world suffered” (museum.ie). This inscription again points out that the Cross of Cong contains a fragment of the True Cross.

The cross is very similar to other artifacts in the museum such as the Silver Chalice. Both artifacts are significant treasures of early Irish churches. The objects are also decorated with some of the same materials such as gold, silver, glass and enamel. The chalice also contains a rock crystal on the bottom center (museum.ie).

References:

http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/focus-on-cross-of-cong.aspx?article=bb8f554e-dac9-4f41-8adc-6366546a6853

http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/ten-major-pieces.aspx?article=cdefa314-2632-44ab-8441-34b984657f1d

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