Celtic civilization is one of the most mysterious and unknown ancient civilizations. Geographically, the Celtic oecumene existed alongside other well-known cultures. Nevertheless, she left behind very few evidence of the way of life of the Celts, their beliefs, and the heroic epic. One of the ancient symbols known in the modern world is the Celtic cross.
The world of the ancient Celts
Five thousand years ago, the Celtic civilization in the north was opposed to the Greco-Roman civilization in the south. From the Northern Alps, the Celtic tribes very quickly settled across the territory of modern England, Ireland, France, Belgium and even Spain. The Hun tribes who besieged Rome were precisely of Celtic origin. But soon the Romans, in their campaigns of conquest, pushed the Celts out and eventually assimilated their culture.
Ireland and Scotland, where the ancient monuments of the Celtic civilization have been preserved, remained at the greatest distance from the paths of the Roman cohorts. Old legends still live on the Brittany Peninsula in France, in Wales, and, of course, on the emerald island of Ireland.
Celtic cross as a pagan symbol
The oldest stone monuments in the form of simple Celtic crosses are found in Ireland. Their age, according to research, is about 12 thousand years. They represent an equal-beam cross, enclosed in a perfect circle.
Before the advent of Christianity, the Celtic cross symbolized the union of heavenly and earthly forces, male and female. Four rays personified the elements - Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and the circle - the sky that unites them. The ends of the Celtic cross meant an endless spiritual expansion of consciousness. The inner circle from which the rays radiate is a source of spiritual energy, the concentration of earthly and heavenly forces at one point.
Later monuments were already decorated with rich ornaments. The tradition of stone carving brought the Picts into Celtic culture, whose tribes gradually merged into the larger and stronger communities of the Celts. It was the Picts who began to carve intricate crosses on top of large stones and intricately intertwined ornaments on the sides. Such crosses are found in North Scotland and Wales.
The ornament that adorned stone crosses is traditional for Celtic culture: it is characterized by endless winding spirals and reliefs in the form of solar symbols - the main object of worship of the ancient Celts.
Celtic Cross of Saint Patrick
The pagan Celtic cross was equal in all directions, but with the arrival of Christianity to the north of Europe, the lower beam of the cross became longer than the rest. The appearance of such a cross is associated with the missionary activities of St. Patrick, who converted Ireland to Christianity and became its patron in the new world.
Such a Celtic cross showed the unification of Christianity (the cross as a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) and ancient beliefs (a circle as a symbol of the sun). The new crosses were no longer decorated with traditional twisted ornaments, but with Christian symbols like fish and chrismas.