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Marian Year Crosses

Marian Year Crosses

For the day that’s in it, it’s worth noting that this is the 70th anniversary of the 1954 Marian Year celebrations in Ireland. Pope Pius had designated this year to celebrate Mary and the immaculate conception of Jesus. This was celebrated very widely throughout rural Ireland and a great many shrines, grottoes and crosses date from this time.

You can hardly travel through an Irish village without coming across a grotto or shrine of some sort. Some are very simple and others elaborate, the finest of these I’ve come across is at Windgap in Co.Kilkenny. Which is well worth visiting and more like a maze!

Also in Kilkenny is Brandon Hill and here there’s as good an example as any of the numerous ‘Holy Year Crosses’ erected on hills and high ground near towns & villages. Some of these date from the Holy Year 1950 but many were first erected in the wave of enthusiasm for the Marian Year 1954. What often started out as a simple wooden cross were later replaced with more elaborate metal structures and in some cases these are even electrified, so that they can be lit up at special times.

There have been mixed views on such structures in recent years with some being damaged. However it has to be said that the idea of marking summits with monuments has a very long and ancient tradition. This is readily seen in the many large burial and other cairns of stones raised on Irish mountain tops. A well known and much photographed such cross is that on the summit of Carrauntoohil, erected by the people of Beaufort Parish. The Reeks also have the highest grotto in Ireland on the summit of Cruach Bheag at 931m, built by local man Tommy O’ Sullivan or Tommy ‘Mullach’ from Ballyledder.