In the past (c.500-1200) Carndonagh was a monastic centre of learning due to its links with St Patrick and St Columba. It was a place of pilgrimage, particularly celebrated on the feast days of the saints. Seeking spirituality through fasting, penance and prayer, the pilgrims would follow a prescribed route. Pillar stones and crosses were made to mark the significant points on these routes and the Marigold Stone is one example.
The Marigold Stone is named after this seven petalled motif 1. with a long stem or handle. It is thought to depict the Cuilebaidh, a relic of Saint Colmcille which is believed to have been a flabellum (a liturgical fan used in warm climates to keep flies away from the alter). The Greek key patterned stem ends in two loops imitating leather thongs for hanging up the fan when not in use. Two figures are dressed in knee-length robes. The figure 2. holding a drop headed staff or crozier and carrying a satchel on the right has been identified as a pilgrim. The figure on the left holds what may be a tau crozier with a vertical slot carved above the pointed foot. In the old Irish Annals, the expression “he took the staff ” was used to describe someone on a pilgrimage. This cross-of-arcs 3. which forms a Maltese cross in recess appears in carvings on many pilgrimage sites throughout Ireland. This unusual domed projection 5. forms the top of the enlarged head of Christ. Early Irish representations of crucifixion focused on Christ’s triumph rather than his suffering and as clearly seen here Christ is depicted with open eyes and a broad smile. Two figures 6. whose robes are emblazoned with a cross possibly depict ecclesiastical figures or saints. The Eastern Mediterranean influence is apparent in the many Greek key or maze patterns 4. 8. .Various crosses and motifs also feature Celtic interlace 7. 9.