The Market Square Cross in the village of Ardrahan in County Galway, is a rare and well-preserved example of a cut limestone market cross that dates back to 1860. 

Market crosses are monuments that were erected in towns and villages across Ireland and Britain, usually at the site of a market or a fair. They served various purposes, such as marking the boundaries of the market area, indicating the authority of the lord or the king, providing a place for public announcements or proclamations, or displaying religious symbols or images. Market crosses were often decorated with carvings, inscriptions, or statues, and some of them had steps, platforms, or roofs.

The Market Square Cross in Ardrahan is unusual in that it lacks any explanatory inscription that would tell who erected it, why it was erected, or when it was erected. It has a simple and elegant design that does not feature any elaborate carvings or statues. The cross consists of a square base with chamfered corners, a tapered shaft with a moulded collar, and a Latin cross head with pointed arms. The cross is about 3 metres high and stands on a circular plinth surrounded by iron railings.

The cross is made of cut limestone, which is a common building material in Galway. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is composed mainly of calcium carbonate. It is formed when marine organisms such as corals, shells, or algae accumulate on the sea floor and are compressed over millions of years. Limestone is durable, easy to work with, and can be polished to a smooth finish. It is also resistant to weathering and erosion, which explains why the Market Square Cross has survived for over 160 years.

The origin and meaning of the Market Square Cross are not clear, but there are some clues and theories that might shed some light on its history. One possibility is that the cross was erected to commemorate the opening of the Ardrahan Farmers Market in 1860. The market was held every Saturday in the square and attracted vendors and customers from the surrounding area. The market sold fruit and vegetables, home bakes, homemade candles and cards, fresh fish and plants. The cross might have served as a landmark or a meeting point for the market-goers.

Another possibility is that the cross was erected to honour the religious heritage of Ardrahan. The name Ardrahan comes from the Irish Ard Raithin, which means “high place of ferns”. The village was founded by Saint Colman Mac Duagh in the 6th century as a monastic settlement. Saint Colman was a bishop and an abbot who established several churches and monasteries in County Galway and Clare. 

The cross might have been inspired by the memorial or funerary monuments known as leachts that were erected at several locations in County Galway around the year 1700. Leachts are stone structures that consist of a rectangular base with an upright slab on top. They often have inscriptions or carvings that commemorate deceased members of prominent families or clans.

The Market Square Cross is a valuable piece of cultural heritage that reflects the history and identity of Ardrahan. It is one of the few remaining market crosses in Ireland and one of the best examples of cut limestone craftsmanship in Galway. It serves as a local landmark and a reminder of the past.


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Market Square Cross



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