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Photographer's Note

Pictured here is Muiredach's Cross, in the historic ruined religious settlement of Monasterboice, North of Drogheda in Co Louth. This site was founded in the late 5th century by St Buithe and was one of the most important centres of learning and of religion until nearby Mellifont Abbey was built in 1142.

Muiredach's Cross is 5.8 metres high, and is regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland. It is name after the abbott Muiredach mac Domhnaill who died in 923. The cross features carvings of both the old and new testaments of the bible. It has been described as the most beautiful example of Celtic stonework in existence. It dates from the late 9th century.

Muiredachs cross and the other high crosses on this site have also been stated to be Irelands greatest contribution to European Sculpture.

There are a total of three surviving high crosses situated at Monasterboice, known as the North, West, and South Crosses. Muiredachs Cross is the South Cross.
This one is made from yellow sandstone, and the main shaft of the cross is made from a single solid block of stone. Even though the cross would have originally featured much finer detail (weather having taken its toll), details of the carved figures including clothing and weapons can still clearly be seen. There are 124 figures carved into the stonework here, 119 of which are wearing contemporary costume. All of the figures are bare headed except one, that depicting Goliath who is wearing a helmet.

The ring of the cross features 17 distinct Celtic Geometric patterns.

Monasterboice also features two churches from the 14th century and the 35 metre high round tower (visible on the right hand side of the shot), but it is the fantastic high crosses for which the site is most famous. The entire complex was burned to the ground in 1097.

In recent years, there have been concerns raised about the future of the cross, with some scholars calling for the monument to be removed and placed indoors. It has been noted that the cross is taking longer and longer to dry out, and it appears rainwater is seeping into it. Acid rain and pollution from the nearby recently opened M1 motorway are having an adverse effect, particulary as sandstone decomposes so easily.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2593 W: 12 N: 6198] (21682)
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