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Glendalough, Visitor Centre, Market Cross

(53°0′37″N, 6°19′39″W)
Glendalough, Visitor Centre, Market Cross
T 123 968
pre-1974 traditional (Republic of Ireland) Wicklow
now Wicklow
  • Roger Stalley

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Feature Sets

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 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.