Celtic Market Crosses
Originally published July 2007.
Celtic Market Crosses
Victorian writers often assumed that stone market crosses in many villages in the British Isles were replacements for the original wooden crosses erected by saints and priests in the early days of Christianity. But in the early 20th century a man named John Irwin pointed out that as early amateur archaeologists began exploring the remoter parts of Britain they found sculpted stones with more obviously pre-Christian markings and clearly phallic shapes. Some of the local people even maintained customs that were associated with these stones.
Unfortunately, some of these Victorians, coming on objects which they found too embarrassing for a 19th century audience, seem to have quietly broke, or buried some of these objects. The phallic-shaped Clackmannan Stone, located east of Stirling, is one of the few to have survived, and stands a short distance from a later market “cross.” Another stone, the Langholm Mercat (market cross) was unearthed by road construction crew, and is again, a shaft with a knob on the top. It was found to have a cross inscribed in it’s top which is believed to be a later addition.
These more phallic stones are suggested to have been the early inspiration for many later market crosses in the form of a tall shaft with a ball or knob at the top. Although they are not actually cross-shaped, these have come to be called market crosses as a generic term since many had crosses as additional decorations on the top, and since they have been used for similar community purposes as actual cross-shaped monuments in villages and towns. The symbolism behind these monuments is often said to be that of the world axis — the link between heaven and earth. The ball or sphere at the top may represent heaven, the spiritual state, or even the sun. The shaft is the world-axis or bridge between heaven and earth and the common square base represents the earth.
Fellow Scotsman? Check out some of our products!
- The Highland Swirl Antiquated Kilt Belt Buckle is a solid brass belt buckle made in Scotland.
- This piece features a detailed, traditional Celtic knot design with an antique silver finish.
- It’s perfect for use with any kilt or at your next re-enactment.
- The buckle measures approximately 4 inches x 3 inches, making it lightweight but solid.
- Longstanding Scottish symbolism abounds in this brooch. The luckenbooth (representing loyalty, love, and friendship) nestled into a Scottish thistle (representing the bravery and nobility of Scotland)
- Made from solid, polished pewter and measures 1.5 inches wide at its widest point
- Fine intricate detailing and a quality-made accessory to wear on any occasion
- Great gift for a dear friend, loved one, or relative to connect with Celtic roots and heritage
- Available in twelve tartans you are sure to find the perfect one for your fall look or for a tartan-loving friend. Dimensions: 70 x 90cm.
- Our Scottish Lambswool Tartan Pancho is proudly made in Scotland from 100% lambswool.
- With fringing along one side, a cowl neck, and a V-shaped back neckline, the tartan lambswool poncho is comfortable and adds flair to any outfit.
- Wear this poncho with the fringe to the back for an elegant look or on the side for a fun fall vibe.
- Black Scottish Pirate Boots are well made, long-lasting, and stylish
- Crafted with a large bucket, square toe, and a heavy-duty leather
- Perfect for all sizes – the split design and lace-up will accommodate wide foot and calf sizes, available in sizes 5-15, soft insole and 2-inch heel
- Priced extremely reasonable for a high-quality product