There is wonderful collection of early Christian cross-slabs within the Inishowen Peninsula, concentrated around the village of Carndonagh.
The main monument, the Carndonagh cross is one of the earliest and most
beautiful examples of an Irish high cross. The cross is carved from sandstone slab, nearly 3
meters tall is covered with incredible Celtic knotwork. The cross is believed to be one of the first examples, possibly dating from the eighth century, and represents the transitional period when the cross-pillar becomes a true high cross.
The artwork is a close relative
of the borders in the Books of Kells and Durrow. There is a crucifixion
scene on the east face of the slab. On early crosses the figure of Christ is portrayed in triumph after defeating death. Later crosses tended to emphasise the Crucifixion. The west face is covered by a large, intricate and complex abstract panel. A series of figures, possibly the apostles are carved in a band along the edges of this amazing monument.
The cross was taken to Dromahair for conservation by the O. P. W. When it was returned, a roofed structure was erected over the cross and pillars to protect them from the elements.
Two smaller pillars are set to each
side of the Carndonagh cross. On one there is an engraving of King David playing his harp,
probably the oldest carving of a harp in Ireland. The opposite side has a wonderful carving of an ecclesiastic carrying a bell. Another carving has some kind of horned figure, while the last has an abstract panel of knotwork.
In the churchyard nearby
is a beautiful pillar stone known as the Marigold Stone. This cross-pillar may be a representation of the Tree of Life, or the Tree of Eden. There is a beautiful seven
petalled flower design at the top of the tree, and a figure stands on each side.
another fabulous cross slab to the south of Carndonagh, in the village of Fahan. The
Fahan Mura cross is easy to find in the village graveyard. Again, it is
covered with wonderful knotwork and has a crucifixion scene. There is
an early Latin engraving on the edge of the slab.