Fassaroe

Feature Sets (2)

Description

A granite cross set in a circular base, located on the E side of Fassaroe Lane.

History

Antiquarian sources state that the cross was brought to its present site in the early 19thc from nearby Ballyman Glen. However, there is some archaeological evidence that a church once existed in an adjoining field, so the cross may in fact be near to its original position.

Features

Exterior Features

Other

Cross

The base is circular and slightly conical in form. The top surface is flat and it has a mortice to receive the whole of the cross shaft. Facing NW, and projecting from the surface of the base, is a worn human head, carved in the round. The shaft has a straight vertical section, which expands into a circular head. 

On the W face of the cross the carving is recessed below the main surface of the stone. A central cruciform panel contains a figure of the crucified Christ: the arms are horizontal, the hands held out flat; the neck is long and thin, and Christ's head has a pronounced lean to the L; the waist is narrow and there are hints of a loin cloth; the feet are placed close together and may be overlapped. The four quadrants around the crucifixion contain plain sunken panels. The angle of the W face has received a slightly rounded profile.

The E face of the cross head lacks the recessed panels; instead two heads, rather pointed in shape and carved in the round, are located in the centre of the circular field; the S (L) head wears a tall conical mitre, presumably indicating a bishop.  On the S side of the circular cross-head is a further human head, projecting in full relief. Its features have been worn away. There is no evidence for a corresponding head on the N side.

Dimensions
depth of shaft 0.16 m
diameter of base 0.95 m
diameter of head 1.42 m
height of base 0.57 m
height of cross, above base 1.42 m
width of shaft 0.26 m

Comments/Opinions

The distinctive shape of the Fassaroe cross, with its circular or disc-shaped head, has been related by O 'hEailidhe to a group of crosses in Cornwall. The 'keyhole' form of the sunken panel containing the Crucifixion has particularly close analogies amongst the Cornish examples.

It is important to remember, however, that there was a large group of early Irish ringed crosses with unpierced heads, some of which were Romanesque in date (Killaloe, Kilfenora). The critical feature of the Fassaroe cross is that the arms do not project beyond the circumference of the circle. This disc-shaped form is found in many early crosses in S Wales (Margam, Llantwit Major) and there are also examples in Ireland; a particularly good instance is that at Killaghtee Old Church, near Dunkineely (Donegal), where the circular head is carved with a Maltese cross (Archaeological Survey of County Donegal, 1520).

The heads projecting in the round can be compared with that on the granite cross at Ballymore Eustace (Kildare). As O 'hEailidhe has pointed out, the Fassaroe cross also has links with several other stone carvings in the immediate neighbourhood (Rathmichael, Kiltuck).

Given the worn state of the sculpture, the cross at Fassaroe is difficult to date; the bent head and long neck of the crucified Christ might suggest comparison with Gothic art, but in Ireland these features are also apparent on a late 12thc bronze from Skellig Michael (National Museum of Ireland). The conical mitre can be compared with that at Dysert O Dea (Clare), though this form of mitre can also be found later in the Middle Ages. The straight angles formed at the intersection of the cross arms recur on 12thc crosses at Tuam (Galway). Taking these points together, a date in the second half of the 12thc, perhaps as late as c.1200, can be tentatively suggested.

Bibliography

  • R. O'Floinn, Medieval crucifix figure from Skellig Michael', Journal of the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society, 13 (1980), 45–9.

  • P. O' hEailidhe, 'Fassaroe and Associated Crosses', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 88 (1958), 101–110.

Location

Site Location
Fassaroe
National Grid Reference
O 24 18 
Boundaries
now: Wicklow
medieval: Wicklow
Dedication
now:
medieval:
Type of building/monument
Cross  
Report authors
Roger Stalley