Glendalough, Visitor Centre, Market Cross

Feature Sets (2)


A granite cross, 1.68m high, with four original pieces and some modern infills. It is ringless in form, with hollows at the arms. It once stood on the road outside the hotel, but was subsequently moved to St Kevin's 'Kitchen'. Its original location within the monastery is not known. With the opening of the new Visitor Centre, it was transferred to the exhibition hall in the new building. The cross is set on an uncarved plinth. The four original blocks are as follows: 


Exterior Features



The base is rectangular in plan (0.59 m by 0.33 m). The first 0.13 m of the block are vertical , then the sides follow a concave chamfer. The upper surface is flat (0.39 m by 0.16 m), with a mortice for the whole cross shaft; this is not centrally aligned, but located towards the northern end of the block. The concave surfaces are decorated with interlaced patterns, very worn. The panels on the N and S may have included animals. The front (E) face has sculpture projecting in the centre; the stone is badly worn, but the legs of two figures, set side by side are visible. The figures appear to stand on some object and near the top, their arms or bodies may be linked (Harbison suggests they may be holding books). The panels on each side are badly worn; that to the L may have included figures. 

The shaft is 0.71 m high and it tapers from 0.34 m by 0.20 m to 0.295 m by 0.18 m. The angles are marked by thin rolls. A rabbet 0.09 m high and 0.03 m deep has been cut out of SE angle. The front (E) face carries vertical lines of pellets beside each angle roll. An ecclesiastical figure, 0.50 m high, projects in relief (maximum depth 0.055 m). He stands in a frontal pose, with a straight-edged alb and a loop of drapery (i.e. the chasuble) falling between the legs. The R hand is raised in blessing and the L hand originally held a crosier, traces of which are visible by the L foot. The upper part of the head has broken off, but the L side of the face and the L ear survive. The top of the shaft carries the lower legs of the crucified Christ. The N face contains a tall panel of Irish-Urnes ornament, including two sets of overlapping beasts and figure-of-eight tendrils. At the top there is a short panel with what appears to be a further beast. The W face is decorated with four rows of figure-of-eight loops, composed of rounded tubular bands. The S face contains a panel of continuous zoomorphic ornament, two sets of paired beasts with figure-of-eight tendrils.

A small broken block, 0.18 m high, comprises the E side of the upper shaft. The front face continues the pellet motif from below. In the centre it contains the lower torso and thighs of Christ, the body swinging to the L, the legs to the R. Although badly worn on the front surface, the sides retain the curving folds of the loin-cloth. A circular hole has been drilled to the L of the torso near the top of the block. What is left of the N and S sides of the block contain a roll moulding, marking the start of the hollowed arms. Above this, the next block includes the arms and upper shaft of the cross. It is badly damaged. The lower part of the E face, containing the upper part of Christ's body, has broken off, and the lower surface of the E face of the right (N) arm is also lost, along with the upper and lower sections of the W face. The length of the arms is 0.80 m and the maximum height is 0.48 m.

On the E face the ends of the arms have a vertical moulding, followed by a pseudo-hollow filled with a roll. The central area contains the shoulders, head and arms of Christ, projecting in relief up to a depth of 0.055 m. A hole with a diameter of 0.025 m and a depth of 0.06 m has been drilled upwards in the top of the chest. The head, which leans to the L, is long in proportion and wears a crown. The arms are held straight out, the palms of the hand (only the S one survives) set flat against the surface. The hair of Christ is long and falls to the shoulders (clearly visible to the R). There are hints of a beard. The space around the head is filled with loose interlace; there are hints of foliage tendrils at the bottom L. There is another deep hole near the bottom corner of the R (N) arm.

On the N face the bottom edge of the N end of the N arm is defined by a roll; there are some suggestions that the whole panel was carved, but the ornament can no longer be distinguished. There is a drilled hole in the upper surface. On the soffit of the N arm the roll and mini-roll of the terminals are well preserved.

On the W face the outer panels on each arm are plain. The central section shows four eight-petalled flowers, linked by tendrils. A petal overlaps the framing roll on the N side. 

On the S face the end of the S arm is filled with an interlaced motif with figure-of-eight loops.


The large figure of the crucified Christ, associated with an ecclesiastic, follows a formula common in 12thc  Ireland (Cashel (Tipperary), Kilfenora (Clare), Tuam (Galway), Roscrea (Tipperary), Dysert O Dea (Clare) etc.). The ecclesiastics are usually interpreted as bishops, a plausible explanation in this case, given that Glendalough was selected as head of one of the Irish dioceses in the 12thc. The identity of the figures below is unclear; similar figures are also found around the base of the market cross at Tuam.

The moulded terminals of the cross are reminiscent of metal crosses, particularly late 10thc examples from Ottonian Germany (for example the Lothar cross at Aachen and the cross of Matilda and Duke Otto at Essen). Metal crucifixes may have provided some inspiration for the general form of the cross.

The panels of interlaced animals in the Irish-Urnes style can be compared with those on the market cross at Tuam (1128–56). The contrast between the flat surfaces of the shaft and the figure sculpture standing out in high relief provides a further analogy. Given that the sculptor of another of the crosses at Tuam had the surname O'Toole, implying a Wicklow origin, the links between Tuam and Glendalough deserve further examination.

The cross betrays little sign of the the type of Romanesque decoration found on the churches at Glendalough, most notably St Saviour's (1154–62), a building which it almost certainly precedes. A date of c. 1130-50 is likely.


  • Glendalough, Co.Wicklow, Official Historical and Descriptive Guide, Dublin, n.d., 44.

  • P. Harbison, The High Crosses of Ireland, Bonn, 1992, I, 95; II, 304–6.

  • R. Stalley, 'The Romanesque Sculpture of Tuam', in The Vanishing Past, ed. A. Borg and A. Martindale, Oxford, 1981, 179–94.


Site Location
Glendalough, Visitor Centre, Market Cross
National Grid Reference
T 123 968 
now: Wicklow
medieval: Wicklow
Type of building/monument
Report authors
Roger Stalley