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Irish Round Towers

3 2 near eastern connectIons and Holy Land influences Missionaries from Britain and Gaul Christianised Ireland in the fifth and sixth centuries, but the story of the round towers will lead us to the Near East, so it is as well to know how longingly the early Irish Church looked eastwards beyond Rome to the Holy Land. Irish high crosses were inspired by pilgrims descriptions of the Jewelled Cross erected on the orders of St Helena at the site of the Crucifiction, while their central circles first appear in Coptic Egypt. Even more remarkably the only accurate plans we have of the Holy Lands early churches were made on Iona, from the accounts of Arculph, a Gaulish pilgrim, who was shipwrecked there on his way home, while several important features of early Irish illumination, such as crosses embedded in fields of interlace, seem to derive from Syrian Christian sources. Equally astonishingly Rahan, an early Irish church, has Armenianlooking architectural features, possibly because a nearby monastery housed Armenian monks. They had come as fugitives from Islam, as did others whom Charlemagne employed as architects. Indeed the only high crosses comparable to those of the British Isles are found in Armenia and Georgia. They were probably also inspired by St. Helenas Jewelled Cross. High Cross of Durrow High Cross of Muredach
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