Ardboe Cross – the finest figure-carved cross in Ulster


The village of Ardboe on the banks of Lough Neagh has the finest figure carved High Cross in Ulster and one of the best in the whole of Ireland.
The cross is made of two pieces of sandstone and stands nearly six metres high. It’s thought to be more than a thousand years old and is the last surviving remnant of an ancient monastery associated with St Colman mac Aed, who probably lived around the 6th century.
The monastery was burnt down in 1166. The cause is not known. A church was built on the site in medieval times but it is now derelict with only the walls remaining. However, the adjacent graveyard is still used by local families.
The figures carved on the cross portray a series of biblical scenes. The back of the cross, facing east towards the church and the lake, features stories from the Old Testament including Adam and Eve, the Sacrifice of Isaac and Daniel with the Lions.
The front of the cross facing west, away from the church, depicts scenes from the New Testament including the Adoration of Magi, Miracle of Canae, the Loaves and Fishes and the Entrance into Jerusalem.
The two sides portray more biblical scenes including Cain killing Abel and David fighting the lion.
These scenes are found on other crosses in Ulster including Armagh, Donaghmore, Camus and Clones, but Ardboe is the largest and most impressive example.
The Ardboe Cross is seen as one of the best examples of monastic scholarship and craftsmanship in stone.
The words ard boe mean hill of the cow in Irish. The village takes its name from the legend that the monastery of Ardboe was built using milk from a magic cow from Lough Neagh.