Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

The Celtic Cross
by UNK
The Celtic Cross

The Celtic cross is essentially a traditional Christian cross with 
a circle overlying the point where the lines meet. This symbol 
evolved in the British Isles, and the earliest forms date from the 
seventh to ninth centuries in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. 

The oldest Celtic crosses were carved into large slabs of rock 
that lay flat on the ground. Later versions stand in an upright 
position, with rock carved away from the cross. Tenth-century 
Irish crosses were sometimes capped with a pitched roof. Celtic 
crosses were often decorated with interlaced knot work, spirals, 
key patterns, animal figures, foliage designs, and Biblical 
stories. Some crosses were memorials, inscribed with names of 
individuals; modern Celtic crosses are often used as tombstones 
in Irish churchyards. 

Some suggest that the Celtic cross is derived from the Chi Rho 
symbol popularized by the Christian Roman emperor Constantine.  
"Chi" and rho" are the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek, 
and the overlapped letters are similar to the equal-limbed cross 
at the center of the Celtic cross. 

But no one is certain about where the distinctive circle of the 
Celtic cross came from or what it means. Among some ancient 
peoples, a circle was used to represent the moon, and a circle 
with a cross symbolized the sun. Thus, the circle in the Celtic 
cross could have been a pagan moon or sun that was appropriated 
by early Christians to help convert the Celtic population. 

An Irish legend tells how St. Patrick created the first Celtic 
cross by drawing a circle over a Latin cross to incorporate a 
pagan moon goddess symbol. For an Irish Catholic, the circle in 
the Celtic cross may be a symbol of eternity and the endlessness 
of God's love. It can even represent a halo emanating from Christ.   
If you're ever in Ireland or Britain, you can gaze upon historic
crosses and interpret their meaning for yourself. 

SOURCE:  http://ask.yahoo.com/ask/20020205.html