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Penal Cross


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The Irish Penal Cross was unique to the Irish folk art of the 18th Century. During this era Catholic religious symbols and Priests were outlawed under the repressive Penal Laws. The Penal Cross was designed to be easily hidden within the Priests personal garments, such as inside the coat sleeve. The Cross has a number of symbols carved onto its surface. These were probably used by the priest as a teaching aid while carrying out his ministry. At the top of the Cross is inscribed INRI (Latin acronym for "This is Jesus King of the Jews") below this is the hammer used at the crucifixion. The crown of thorns are also shown on Christ's head. A chalice shown on the left hand side of the Cross symbolises the last supper. On the right hand side of the Cross are the cords used at the scourging at the pillar. The spear used at the crucifixion is also symbolised. Below Christ's feet are the nails used at the crucifixion. The ladder used at the crucifixion also symbolises the soul’s ascension into heaven. The cock and pot are symbols of the resurrection.


15cm x 4.5cm (6 x 1¾")

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