The Ardboe Cross

One of the finest examples of an ancient high cross in Ireland

The high cross of Ardboe stands on the western shore of Lough Neagh, approximately 1.6km south of Newport Trench.

In the eighteenth century, pilgrimages were made to the cross and the devout moved round it on their knees while praying. The water of the lough itself was believed to possess healing powers.

The top stone of the cross became dislodged around 1817 and the upper portion, including the arms, fell in 1846. Colonel Stewart of Killymoon then carefully carried out its re-erection and restoration.

The cross probably dates from the tenth or eleventh century. It stands approximately 5.6m high, and the arms are 1m wide. The shaft is 58 cm wide and 35cm deep. The northern upper portion of the ring is missing.

The religious motifs sculptured into the stone cross are very weatherworn, and while some of the designs are quite clear, others are not so obvious and are open to more than one interpretation.

The east (Old Testament) side depicts Adam and Eve; the sacrifices of Isaac; Daniel and the lions; the children of the fiery furnace; a figure with bell and crozier surrounded by people; and Christ in glory with scales and flames beneath.

On the west (New Testament) side are: the visit of the Magi; the miracle of Cana; the multiplication of loaves and fishes; the entry to Jerusalem; and the arrest and crucifixion.

On the south side are: Cain and Abel; David struggling with the lion; David killing Goliath; and the raven feeding Paul and Anthony in the Egyptian desert.

The scenes on the north side are less easy to interpret, but the baptism and anointing of David, the judgement of Solomon, and the slaughter of the innocents have all been suggested.