Probably the most well-known symbol of Celtic Christianity is the Celtic cross. This type of cross has a ring or circle around its intersection; the same design was often used for the high crosses of Ireland and Britain which were made of richly decorated stone during the Middle Ages. These stone crosses began by the 8th century or earlier; there were probably wooden versions before this, which may have had a metal coating. Notable high crosses in Ireland include those at Carndonagh in County Donegal, Clonmacnoise in County Offaly, and Kells in County Meath. There are also notable Celtic high crosses in Scotland including the Iona Abbey Crosses.
According to legend, Saint Patrick created the Celtic cross by combining the Christian cross with the sun cross, a pagan symbol of a circle with a cross inside it. One interpretation was that this showed the importance of the Christian cross by linking it with the concept of the life-giving properties of the sun. Another interpretation is that the cross on top of the circle represents Christ’s supremacy over the pagan sun.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw a resurgence of interest in Celtic and other insular art; this period is often referred to as the Celtic revival. The Celtic cross became popular for cemetery monuments during this time and its use spread beyond Ireland and the British Isles.
The Celtic cross is currently a popular symbol today which you can see on clothing, jewelry, tattoos, and other items. There is even a contemporary Celtic pop band from Warwick, New York with the name Celtic Cross.
If you’d like to purchase a Celtic related gift online, there are plenty of options. The Museum Store Company sells a 12” Celtic cross to hang on your wall for $32.75 and also sell a number of other Celtic cross wall hangings ranging in price from $24.00 to $47.00. You can also purchase a bonded stone Celtic chess set and board on their website for $164.85. It is a reproduction of a set found in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis, an island off the coast of Scotland. If you are interested in Celtic style jewelry, the Museum Store Company has a nice selection of Celtic cross pendants.