• April 21, 2023

I thought I would publish a bit more on the Calf Crucifixion Cross fragment as its generated a fair bit of interest on our main site:

“This outstanding example of Celtic art is carved on a slab of slate, but only a portion of it has survived. It was discovered around the 1770s on the Calf of Man, a small island to the south of the Isle of Man, by workmen. They were demolishing the ruins of an ancient keeill (an early Celtic chapel) to obtain stone for use as building material.

“The slab probably formed part of an altar panel and is thought to date from about the late 8th century, a few years before the arrival of the Vikings. The carving depicts the crucifixion of Christ whose clothed figure is flanked on the left hand side by a Roman soldier with a spear. On the missing right hand portion of the slab there may have been another soldier with a sponge of vinegar as related in the Gospels.

“The fineness and delicacy of workmanship displayed in the stone is incredibly rare for that early period. It is typically Byzantine in style and serves as an example of the artistic influence which the eastern Mediterranean Church had on the Celtic Church at the time. Similar work on bronze plates and in other metal has been found in Ireland.”

It’s interesting that the remaining fragment could still be lying around there although you are unlikely to see any archaeological search because folk would kick off because it’s a bird sanctuary now and I don’t think you would get away with sticking up a few bird boxes and saying the MWT like you as some developers do!

The other point I found interesting was the reference to a potential Eastern Mediterranean link in terms of the style of the artwork. In his film trilogy ‘Atlantean’ Bob Quinn speculates on links of the Celtic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church and he included a photograph taken at St Davids Cathedral in Wales around 1922 which includes a line up of Eastern Orthodox clergy. I don’t know what was going on in the Welsh Church at the time but perhaps someone in Cymru with ecclesiastical leanings knows.

Getting back to the Calf Crucifixion the final ‘what if’ is about the possibility of a second figure (soldier) with the vinegar sponge. I suppose we’ll never know.

It just goes to prove we lost a lot in Mann by letting people go around knocking things down without thinking – even in the 18th century.

Bernard Moffat

Celtic League (6th April 2023)

(Original post Mannin Branch sFacebook page)

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