The Cross of Cong

10 Feb

This past week on a class excursion to the National Museum of Ireland I was able to view artifacts that date back to prehistoric Ireland. However, the treasury room within the museum particularly caught my eye.  Housed within this room are some of Ireland’s most valuable and historic treasures.  While observing and studying the contents of the room, I noticed more than a few crosses encased in glass displays.  One particular artifact interested me the most, the ornate Cross of Cong.

The Cross of Cong was made in the early 12th century in County Galway in the west of Ireland at the instruction of the King of Connacht who was the leading King within Ireland at the time. Its intended purpose was to be used as a processional cross and it is beautifully decorated with gold leaf, silver and glass. Legend states that the True Cross of Christ was brought to Ireland in 1123 and a fragment was kept from the True Cross. The Cross of Cong was built as a shrine for this fragment and would have held the fragment of the True Cross in its center. The cross itself is actually made of oak wood and is encased in brass, silver and gold. Surprisingly, the oak portion beneath all of the precious metal is still in one piece and only has a few minor fractures.

Being the centerpiece of the treasury, it is a magnificent sight to see. The metal inscriptions and celtic design show remarkable craftsmanship for the time period and reflect on the Catholic Church’s influence over the island of Ireland. 

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By: Ryan Waetjen

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