In previous posts I’ve addressed the avian potential of early medieval high crosses, and their modern replication in Irish cemeteries and churchyards. Another dimension of modern-era high crosses as a memorial form is seeing how they create dense populated memorial spaces within churchyards of great antiquity.
Nowhere is this clearer than at the Hill of Slane, where the ruins of the friary church and college can be visited. The hill enjoys wide views over eastern Ireland. It is a focus of Christian legend going back to the 5th century when St Patrick purportedly lit a Paschal fire on the hill at Easter in defiance of the High King and ahead of the druid’s pagan ceremony at Tara. He then appointed a former-druid as bishop of Slane: Saint Erc, whose statue dominates the entrance to the churchyard today.
Both within the ruined church, and in the surrounding churchyard, there are a fair number of high cross replicas. Some represent family plots, others are one among a number marking family plots. They vary in their details and character, but they offer a striking dimension to the space as they cluster around this ancient holy site. They constitute the use of the early medieval past in recent mortuary commemoration. High crosses are replicated and proliferated in the modern era and, as such, respond to and augment the significance and environment of ancient sites.