CARNDONAGH MONASTIC SITE

The original Irish name of Carndonagh, (Carn Domhnach) means the burial mound of the church, refering to this site which was once the location of a church founded by St. Patrick in the fifth century. It developed into a prosperous and influential monastery. The Donagh Cross, also known as St. Patrick’s Cross, the Marigold Stone and the some other interesting pillars and carvings remain as relics of it’s fascinating past.

DONAGH CROSS, CARNDONAGH

The ancient red sandstone Cross measures 2.53 meters high. It is considered one of the best examples of low relief carving from the early medieval period in Ireland.

Similarities in design between this Cross and the Book of Durrow which dates from the latter part of the 7th century suggest they were both of the same periods.

On the east face, the top of the cross features a broad ribbon interlace woven as the Tree of Life. With its roots in the earth and its branches high in the air, it represented the connection between heaven and earth.

The seasonal cycles of the tree link it with growth, death, and rebirth. Formed in the shape of a cross it blends Celtic and Christian symbolism.

The scene below this has been interpreted as the Crucifixion and Christ with his out-stretched arms is accompanied by figures representing Stephaton and Longinus, sponge and lance bearers and the two thieves crucified with Christ.  Below it is three figures wearing cowls and long robes.  These may represent the holy women who visited Christ’s tomb after the Resurrection.

The west face is completely covered with closely entwined interlacing with an unusual triple strap design similar to interlacing on the Mura Cross.

The south side has figures carved one on top of the other down the side of the shaft and a simple braid pattern around the head of the cross. The more worn and fissured north side has faint traces of interlace. The cross is flanked by two guard pillars.