The Crucifixion at Moone

June 8th 2024

I am still focused on the 10th Century High Cross at Moone, Co. Kildare.  This week I want to draw your attention to the crucifixion scene which is directly above the twelve apostles on the west side of the cross.  It is hardly surprising that almost every high cross with scriptural scenes included the crucifixion.  However, there are a number of things to note about this scene. Jesus has his arms extended, as you would expect.  You can see the cross behind him.  But here he is fully clothed in a long sleeved garment so that he looks like a priest saying Mass.  There are two figures on either side of him.  Crucifixion scenes usually include people at the foot of the cross.  Typically, these will be Mary , the mother of Jesus, and the Beloved Disciple following the account in the Gospel of John (Jn 19:25-27).   But on the high crosses of Ireland and in contemporary art works from the same period, two different figures are shown.  These are, on the left, Longinus with his lance piercing the right side of Jesus and, on the right, Stephaton with his vinegar soaked sponge on a stick.  This earlier tradition combines two separate events and shows them as one.   The first is when Christ’s cries “I thirst” and drinks the vinegar (Jn 19:28-30).  The second is when after his death they pierce his side with a lance and water and  blood pour from the wound  (Jn 19:34-35).   Christians interpreted the water and the blood as symbols of baptism and the eucharist.   His thirst is at once part of his suffering and his longing that we might come to faith in him and then be baptised and in the eucharist be nourished by his body and blood.  The sculptor places this scene above the twelve Apostles who were commissioned to hand on the faith, baptism and the eucharist to us.  The scene on the opposite side in this position is Adam and Eve with the tree of life and the serpent between them, suggesting the victory of Jesus over sin and death.  It amazes me how the creator of the High Cross at Moone could convey such pivotal theological truths with such simplicity. 

The Crucifixion at Moone

Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.

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