A reassessment of the early medieval stone crosses and related sculpture of Offaly, Kilkenny and Tipperary
This study is concerned with the Early Medieval freestanding stone crosses and related sculpture of three Irish counties, Offaly, Kilkenny and Tipperary. These monuments are recorded both descriptively and photographically and particular emphasis has been placed on a detailed analysis of the Hiberno-Saxon abstract ornament, the patterns used and, where possible, the way in which they were constructed. The discussion begins with a survey of the origins and morphology of the freestanding cross in Ireland examining both archaeological and documentary evidence. The monuments are then divided into groups according to similarity. Each group is discussed, the form and layout of the monuments, their abstract and iconographical ornament, and these are compared with sculpture elsewhere, objects in other media, and the origins of the various motives are also considered where appropriate. Chronologically, three main groups emerge. In the late eighth and early ninth centuries there are several local groups making use of a wide variety of abstract ornament, often influenced by metalwork and manuscript motives, but with little figural iconography. Close links have also been noted with sculpture in Scotland. During the ninth century the abstract ornament gives way to an increasing use of Scriptural iconography, probably popularised by contact with Carolingian Europe, which may first be detected on some 'Transitional' monuments. Finally, the figural iconography predominates, giving rise to the distinctive 'Scripture' crosses of the late ninth and tenth centuries.