The Cross of the Scriptures is one of Ireland’s finest high crosses, and according to Professor Roger Stalley, it may have been created by the same master artist as Muiredach’s Cross at Monasterboice (you can hear a fascinating discussion in this episode of Amplify Archaeology Podcast). The cross was carved out of one solid block of sandstone. The depictions represents Christ’s crucifixion, death and rebirth. The large base, in the form of a pyramid, is thought to represent The Hill of Calvary or Golgotha where Christ was crucified, while the capstone represents the Holy Sepulchre – the tomb that Christ was held in after his death. The scenes which are carved out on the cross itself refer to the scriptures’ account of Christ’s death and rebirth.
The scenes on the west face of the cross are thought to represent guards at the tomb of Christ, the arrest of Christ and, in the centre, the crucifixion. On the other side of the cross scenes include the Last Judgement at the centre, and at the top of the cross, Christ with St. Peter. The bottom panel on the shaft of the cross is thought to represent St. Ciarán with Diarmuid, High King of Ireland, but it more likely depicts Abbot Colman with King Flann, placing the stake for a church in the ground. This is supported by an inscription on the cross, that states ‘A prayer for King Flann, son of Maelsechnaill, a prayer for the King of Ireland. A prayer for Colman who made this cross for King Flann’. It is known that Colman was the Abbot at Clonmacnoise from AD 904 to 926 indicating that the cross was possibly erected at the same time as the Cathedral in AD 909. On the base of the cross, hunting scenes can be seen which may allude to Kingship.
The real cross is in the Visitor Centre to protect it from weathering, while a convincing replica is out on site.