The Meaning of the Celtic Cross

In today’s post I will be sharing a little about what I  have learned about the meaning of the Celtic cross.

We can find legend and symbolism surrounding almost all historical artifacts and the Celtic Cross is no exception.  The ringed cross is closely identified with Scottish, Irish and Welsh heritage.  When we see this cross these cultures quickly come to mind.

The Meaning of the Celtic Cross

Celtic cross at Monasterboice outside Dublin by Nick Corble

There are interesting legends surrounding the Celtic cross.

One popular legend has it that St. Patrick introduced the cross intending to convert pagan heathens to Christianity.  At the time the church leaders thought it would be easier to convert pagans from their beliefs to Christian beliefs if they used symbols that they were already familiar with.

The history of the Celtic cross goes back to a time before the Christian conversion of Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

It’s believed by some that the four arms of the cross represents the four elements, earth, air, fire and water.  They also represent the four directions of the compass, North, South, East and West.  And finally the four parts of man, mind, soul, heart and body.  The horizontal line of the cross symbolizes earth and the vertical portion symbolizes heaven.

The Meaning of the Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross at Glendalough, Ireland by Andy Hares

Some believe that the ring on the Celtic cross represents the Roman sun-god, Invictus, therefore the sun.  Others interpret it as the moon.  Catholics and Protestants say this ring represents eternity and emphasizes unending love as shown by the sacrifice on the cross.  Or, that it might represent the halo.  From a practical point of view it it’s said that the ring, or circle was a solution to keep the early stone crosses from breaking.

Did you know that there are different types of Celtic cross designs?

The design of the Celtic Cross is closely associated with the politics of the times.  There is the Iron Age culture design, the scripture design and designs that represent the designs together.  The earlier crosses would have designs of Celtic art such as faces and scenes with animals, all in relief.  Many crosses have been found with intricate Celtic knot work carved into the stone.  The scripture design crosses would have depictions of significant Biblical accounts such as The Last Supper or the Crucifixion.

The Meaning of the Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross at Cashel, Ireland by Andy Hares

Apart from the historical aspect, today the Celtic cross is widely used for jewelry and other ornamentation.  Beautiful Celtic pendants can easily be found to fit any style.  They are also worn to signify a connection to Celtic ancestry either by heritage or by the love of the culture because the meaning of the Celtic Cross is rich with legend and symbolism.

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