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Cross of Cong

"The Cross of Cong," is undoubtedly one of the finest specimens of metal work, enamel, niello, and jewellery of its age in the western world. It was designed to be placed on top of a religious staff or crosier. It stands 30 inches high, and the breadth of the arms is 19 inches. The illustration on the frontispiece affords so faithful a representation of it, that it is unnecessary, especially in a work of this nature, to enter into a minute description of its artistic details. It consists of an oaken cross, covered with plates of bronze and silver, washed in many places with a thick layer of gold, and having interspersed golden filagree work of most minute character around its front centre. All the front and back plates are elaborately carved with that intertwined pattern, or strap work, with grotesque animals, which is specially characteristic of Irish ornamentation on stone, metal, vellum, and vitreous composition, and which is seen on so many of our great monumental crosses, and is well represented in the Moytura Cross. The outer corners of each compartment were originally studded with precious stones, glass, or figured enamel paste, in white, and dark blue colours. Supported upon a raised boss, decorated with niello in the centre, there is a large polished crystal, under which was placed originally the relique sent from Rome to King Turloch O'Conor, in 1123, and thus stated in the Annals of Innisfallen under that year: "A bit of the true cross came into Ireland and was enshrined at Roscommon by Turloch O'Conor." Around its sides there are a series of Latin and Irish inscriptions both in the Irish character; the letters are punched into the silver plate, apparently by dies or types, and so deeply that the metal plates Cross of Congbeneath are indented with almost equal sharpness; and this enables us to read uninterruptedly even where the external plate has been injured. The foot of the cross springs from a highly decorated dog's head, which rises out of a globe, the ornamentation of which, in detail, is a marvel of the workmanship of its own or any other period. Beneath that ball is a decorated socket, into which was inserted the staff or pole with which the cross was carried. The inscription affords, unerringly, the history of this magnificent relique, the time and purpose for which it was made, and recounts the names of those in any way concerned in its formation.  

At an early date, probably in the mid-12th century, the cross was moved from Tuam to Cong Abbey. In later centuries, the exact location of the cross in the Cong area is uncertain but it appears to be have been hidden by locals and ecclesiastics in their homes because of religious persecution against Catholics, which reached its peak in Ireland under the penal laws.
About 1890, the cross was transferred to the newly opened National Museum of Science and Art, Dublin, which was the predecessor of National Museum of Ireland. Later, when the National Museum of Ireland was founded in 1925, it occupied the same building. Today, the cross remains in the National Museum of Ireland, where it is currently on display for visitors.

Market Cross

Located in the main street of Cong village it is the first historical piece you encounter as one enters the village. It serves to remind us of the long history and the association Cong village has with religion. It is reputed that it was erected to mark the completion of the Royal Abbey of Cong in the 12th century. The cross is made from limestone which is the most predominant type of stone in the area. The raised lettering on the cross is in the old Gaelige language and this translates to "A prayer for Niahol and Gillibard O'Duffy who were Abbotts of Cong. It is told that at the cross the murder of a judge took place. It is said that he had just sentenced a man to death who was found guilty of murder, when he himself was attacked and killed by the brother of the accused.

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