History of the Celtic cross

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celtic cross
The Celtic Cross is an ancient symbol still revered today
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The Celtic Cross has long been associated with the people of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and parts of Britain as a symbol of heritage. However, the history of the Celtic Cross is one that is rich in speculation and interpretation. Although traditionally, crosses have been given a religious connotation because of the crucifixion of Christ, Celtic Crosses were in evidence long before the Celtic people converted to Christianity in the fourth century.

Once you finish reading this article, be sure to check out the other informational religious and spiritual articles that range from meditation to the beliefs of Buddhism.

Early folklore

The history of the Celtic Cross is rich with folklore and mystery. The Celts were a powerful race of nomadic warriors who first emerged in Central Europe. Branching out, their settlements to include much of Europe. Their descendants have roots in Italy, Greece, France, Britain and Ireland. When the Romans marched north, they conquered much of continental Europe before eventually invading Britain. Much of central England submitted to Roman rule however; the Celts in Wales and Scotland resisted defeat and along with Ireland preserved their original Celtic culture. After the Romans departed in 407 AD, a new Celtic state was established in Brittany. It is these remaining Celtic settlements of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany and Cornwall that remained unfettered by Roman influence and thus, give us the best insight into east Celtic culture.

Oldest known Celtic Crosses

The oldest Celtic Crosses were carved into large slabs of rock that lay flat on the ground while later versions were made to stand upright. Decorative elements include knots, spirals, and key patterns. Scripture is also depicted on the religious versions. The art on Celtic Crosses is often a mix of the supernatural and nature and includes pictures of humans and animals, plants and mythical figures.

Early interpretations

Early explanations of the history of the Celtic Cross include the use of symbolism from ancient peoples in which the cross stood for the four directions, or four corners of the earth. The circle was a symbol for the moon and combining the circle with the cross was thought to be a symbol for the sun. Some believe that the horizontal and vertical sections of the cross come together to imply the joining of forces such as Heaven and Earth. There are also legends that suggest the stone Celtic Crosses were carved from the standing stones of the Druids and were originally phallic symbols carved into crosses to disguise their original purpose. This theory, like many related to the history of the Celtic Cross has not been proven. In addition to these notions, Irish legend maintains that St. Patrick created the first Celtic Cross by drawing a circle over a Latin cross to incorporate a pagan goddess symbol.

Religious significance

The most common theory about the history of the Celtic Cross pertains to its religious connotations. Irish Catholics determine that the cross is a religious symbol, that the Celtic Cross became an emblem of the Celtic Christian Church when the Celts converted to Christianity. They believe that the circle on the cross is a symbol of eternity that emphasizes the endlessness of God's love. The appearance of the circle has also been explained by the Irish Catholics as the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Modern uses

Today, the Celtic Cross is believed to have a protective influence and is used as symbol of ethnic heritage as much as one of faith. It is often used as an emblem of ones Irish, Scottish or Welsh identity.

There are many legends as to the origin and history of the Celtic Cross, including those of religion and tradition. Although ambiguous, the folklore adds to the mystery and interest of the Celtic Cross and allows this ancient symbol to continue to mean many things to many people.

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