The symbolism of the Celtic cross is multi-faceted, and hard to define. There is rarely one defined meaning, and rarely one point in space or time when the symbol can be said to be created.
A study of the meaning of the Celtic cross can lead you to multiple avenues, multiple religions, and varying perspectives on what it means.
The Fusion of Christianity & Paganism
One of the most common legends regarding the Celtic cross as a Christian symbol, is that St Patrick introduced, or perhaps created it, in order to help with the conversion of pagan kings in the 5th century.
It is said that St Patrick visited a sacred standing stone which was marked with symbols of sun and moon worship. He combined the ancient sun-cross of the pagan culture with the cross of Christianity, and from this the Celtic cross was born. In this way he could help the druids to understand the importance of the cross.
To Christians, the symbol is associated with endlessness of God’s love, which is shown by the never-ending circle. The circle can also represent eternity, or the halo of Christ. The cross shows Christ’s sacrifice, and the salvation that his crucifixion and resurrection offer the faithful.
In the 8th century, high crosses became popular. They stood tall as monuments and standing stones, such as the ones that appear in Gallerus Orantory and Killaglee Cross in Ireland, and Edderton Cross in Scotland.
The Ancient Origins of the Celtic Cross
Before the Celtic cross was born, similar symbols appeared across a number of cultures, including the medicine wheel of Native America, Odin’s Cross of Nordic myth, the Presbyterian Cross and Coptic Cross.
The most well-known symbol, and one that bears close resemblance, is that of the sun-cross, which includes a circle with four lines through it. This symbol, again ambiguous in its nature, could represent the four directions, four elements, the four stages of the day, and is most commonly regarded as a symbol of sun worship.
Of course, symbols should also encourage private introspection, to derive from them a personal meaning. A truly divine and ancient symbol, with links to both pagan and Christian beliefs, the Celtic cross is worthy of your own reflection.
The Celtic Cross in Irish Gifts Store
At Irish Gifts Store we offer a number of beautiful jewelry items which combine the tradition of the Celtic cross symbol with contemporary design and fashion. Whether for divine contemplation, as symbol of Celtic heritage, or as a stunning decoration, the Celtic cross makes a pleasing addition to any outfit. Take a look at our jewelry range bellow.