As with much of Irish symbolism, the Celtic cross is rich in legend. Ancient roots are clouded, resulting in some guesswork to its exact origin.
The Celtic cross is the Latin cross with a circle of light intersecting it. It is also known as the Irish cross or cross of Iona. These crosses may be simple or quite ornate. When on a tall base, they are often called Irish high crosses.
Some credit St. Patrick (or St. Declan) with changing the pagan symbol of the sun, which was a cross inside a circle, to a ring surrounding the center of the cross to illustrate Christ’s supremacy over pagan worship of the sun. The circle represents eternity and emphasizes God’s everlasting love demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Others say the cross represents navigation, symbolizing a compass that guides us through a spiritual sea.
The use of the Christian Celtic cross spread to France and Britain in the Early Middle Ages. It continues to be popular today.
*(Photo: High Cross, Our Lady of Knock, Ireland)