The Cross of Cong

2 Oct

Amongst all the beautiful artifacts and objects I saw during my visit at the National Museum of Ireland, one particular ornament stood out to me like none other. The Cross of Cong not only renders itself as a alluring piece of artwork, but it also represents the very powerful influence that Christianity had, and still has, on the Irish nation. 

Forged in the early 12th-century for Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht and High King of Ireland, the cross was intended to be placed upon the top of staff. While demonstrating the sheer wealth that Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair had as king, the cross also represented a magnificent tribute to the church. You see at that time the province of Connacht, which Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair was king of, did not have an archbishop of its own. Though the cross itself is designed to be placed atop a staff, typically this sort of treasure was to only be carried before an archbishop. In this sense, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair commissioned this cross in a clever scheme to gain the church’s support for his political activities. 

 

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The Cross of Cong is made of an oak core which was embedded into a sheet of brass and cast with decorative brass plates to give us the wonderful ancient relic. Measuring in at 760 mm high, 480 mm wide, and 35 mm in thickness, the Cross of Cong is a large piece of artwork that attracts the eye immediately. I believe the size and the beauty of the cross represents the great amount of power manifested in both the messiah and the religion itself. Compared to other examples of Christian work in the museum, I truly see nothing quite equal to the elegance and allure offered by the Cross of Cong. 

Upon further research, I was able to discover the translation of the inscriptions written on the side of the cross. While the majority of the inscription calls for several prayers for different people and parts of Ireland, I think the first and last lines are perhaps the most endearing in regards to Christianity. As it reads, “By this cross is covered the cross on which the creator of the world suffered”. While the majority of crosses I have encountered are typically plain and bare, representing both the realism and grief of Jesus’ death, the Cross of Cong is majestic and dignified. Though the inscription demonstrates of sort of lamenting of the messiah’s death, the Cross of Cong celebrates his passing as the golden wrapped cross seems fit for only a king. 

Sources: 

http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/focus-on-cross-of-cong.aspx

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