An unusual Ogham and Runic inscription from Killaloe, Co. Clare

This circa 11th century cross fragment from Killaloe, Co. Clare is highly unusual as it contains two inscriptions, one written in Norse runes and the other in Irish ogham. The runic inscription reads ‘(TH)URGRIM RISTI (K)RUS INA’ or ‘Thorgrimr carved this cross’, while the ogham states ‘BEANDACHT (AR) – TOROQR ( IM)’ or ‘A blessing on Thorgrimr’.

The Runic Inscription (after Macalister 1917, p. 493)

It is likely that this piece represents the work of a Viking craftsman who was working under the patronage of the Uí Bhriain/O’Brien kings of Munster. Though very rare, this combination of an ogham and runic inscription is not without parallel and a similar example is known from a stone at Maugholdon on the Isle of Man.

The ogham inscription (after Harbison 1992, Fig. 401)

The  cross fragment measures circa 0.89m tall by 0.46m wide and it contains a simple carving on the reverse, which may depict the Crucifixion. Peter Harbison has suggested that the stone originally formed part of the upper shaft of a high cross, which was broken in antiquity (after McLaughlin). At some stage in the past it was reused as building stone and was incorporated into the wall surrounding St. Flannan’s cathedral, where it was discovered in 1916. The cross fragment is now on display inside the cathedral.   

The possible Crucifixion (after Harbison 1992, Fig. 402)

References

The Archaeological Survey of Ireland (via The Historic Environment Viewer)

Harbison, P. (1992) The High Crosses of Ireland: An Iconographical and Photographic Survey”, Dr. Rudolf Habelt GMBH, Bonn, 1992. Volume 1: Text, Volume 2: Photographic Survey; Volume 3: Illustrations of Comparative Iconography.

Macalister, R. A. S. (1917) ‘On a Runic Inscription at Killaloe Cathedral’ in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics,Literature, Vol. 33 (1916/1917), pp. 493-498

McLaughlin, B. ‘ Medieval Monastic Killaloe and Two High Crosses’ (primary source for images)

McManus, D. (1997) ‘A guide to ogam’ in Maynooth: Monographs 4. Maynooth.

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