The Market Cross, Glendalough. Co. Wicklow.

Location – In the main visitor’s centre at Glendalough.

Description and History – The first thing that struck me about this granite cross was its size. It is tiny compared with other high-crosses of its age. It has all the ornamentation you would expect of a high-cross, but on a much smaller scale. It measures only 1.7m in height. Its name, the market cross, is thought to come from the idea that this cross originally marked the site of a market at Glendalough located near the gateway to the site, although there is no archaeological evidence that it was ever actually placed here. Christiaan Corlett has speculated that it may have originally been located nearer the Cathedral. 

The head of the cross shows the crucified Christ in high relief, his head tilted to one side, and set against an interlace pattern. There is a circular hole in Christ’s chest, and there are others on the cross as well. These might have been to facilitate the addition of removable elements during religious festivals at certain times of the year. Underneath the crucifixion is a depiction of an ecclesiastic, possibly St. Kevin. Corlett has postulated that it could also be a depiction of a 12th century ecclesiastic called Lorcán Ua Tuathain who spent his inheritance on building works at Glendalough. The two figures on the base of the cross could possibly be his parents. On the sides of the cross are interlace animal and floral patterns in Urnes style.

It is now located inside the main visitor’s centre at Glendalough, protected from any further weathering. It is well displayed and well illuminated.

Difficulty – East to find and easily accessible. There is a small entrance fee into the visitor’s centre.

Date of visit - 27th July 2023.

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