TUAM HIGH CROSS
The Tuam High Cross is one of the most remarkable examples of medieval Irish art and architecture. It stands as a testament to the religious and cultural significance of Tuam, a town in County Galway that was once a major ecclesiastical centre and the seat of an archbishopric.
The cross was erected in 1152, possibly to commemorate the appointment of the first Archbishop of Tuam, Áed Ua O’hOisín, who was also a patron of the arts and learning. The cross is reputed to have been the tallest of the High Crosses of Ireland, reaching over 5 metres in height. It is carved from sandstone and features intricate scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as Celtic motifs and symbols.
The cross was originally located in the grounds of the first cathedral of Tuam, which was built in the 12th century by Archbishop Ua O’hOisín. However, the cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1184, and the cross was dismantled into pieces that were later found in different locations. Some of the fragments were used as building materials or decorative elements in other structures, while others were buried or lost.
In the 19th century, a local antiquarian named George Petrie rediscovered some of the pieces and initiated a campaign to restore and re-erect the cross. After much controversy and debate over the ownership and location of the cross, it was finally reassembled and placed in the town square in 1877. However, the cross suffered from weathering and pollution, and in 1992, it was removed from the square and relocated to the south transept of St. Mary’s Cathedral, where it is now protected and displayed.
The Tuam High Cross is a remarkable example of medieval Irish art and architecture. It showcases the skill and creativity of the craftsmen who carved it, as well as the religious and cultural significance of Tuam as an ecclesiastical centre.
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