EMILI: Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions

ARM-002. Kilnasaggart Pillar

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Description: Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record Number: ARM032:006. Stone, cross carved pillar, described by SMR files as granite (w: 0.43-0.50 x h: 2.12x d: 0.15-0.18). The inscribed face to the south-east is flattish, although damaged on its southern edge, while the 'back' to the north-west, is generally convex but angular towards the base. Long, deep sharpening scores are found low down on the south-western and north-western faces. This have been mistakenly interpreted as Ogham scores in the past. The inscription, on the south-east face, is between two large crosses, the upper a Latin cross with terminals expended in seriphs, the lower an equal-armed cross with spiral terminals, enclosed in a circle (Photograph below courtesy of Abarta Heritage). The top right-hand corner of the sout-east face is broken at an angle and the resulting space is filled with another encirled equal-armed cross. The north-west ('back') face of the pillar has ten equal-armed crosses, nine within circles and 2 smaller than the rest. Three have spiral-decorated arms and the rest have slightly expanded terminals. The six crosses on the right are treated as a linked group, all except the top cross are within circular frames in relief. The four crosses to the left are cut on raised circular discs without encircling frames.
Text: The inscription is chisel cut (Macalister 1949, 115) and arranged horizontally in eight lines between the two large crosses described above.
Letters: The lettering is in half-uncial, tending to decrease in height from top to bottom. The first three letters of line one have wedge-shaped finials, as does the final I of line 2. These do not appear in any of the other 6 lines. Letters of note include the 'OC' A, the half-uncial rather than majuscule S, the open Es, the majuscule R, and the open-bowed B. A large number of the letters are conjoined (Celtic Inscribed Stones Project).

Date: c. 714 A.D.

Findspot: Photographed by the Earl of Dunraven in 1869, this monument had already been described and illustrated earlier by Reeves (1853) and Reade (1857). A sketch is also given in Tours in Ulster (p. 170), by. J. B. Doyle, 1855 (Petrie 1878, 30). Although no trace of a church building survives, Kilnasaggart (`Church of the Priests') was probably an early church site (Monasticon Hibernicum database) and is located close to what is believed to be the northern route Slige Midluachra, one of the five legendary roads from Tara (Dindsenchas). Other remains at this strategically important site include an early Christian graveyard (unpublished excavations by Hamlin 1966 and 1968), six small cross-carved stones and a bullaun in the field to the south (SMR files).
Original location: Kilnasaggart (Cill na Sagart), Co. Armagh, 54.072275, -6.378783.

Last recorded location: Findspot






This place, T'Ernóc son of Cíarán the little has bequeathed it under the protection of Peter the apostle


The obit of the person named here (T'Ernóc mac Cíaráin Bic) is recorded in the annals for AD 716 (Annals of Tigernach; see CELT - Corpus of Electronic Texts) and AD 714 (Annals of the Four Masters; see CELT - Corpus of Electronic Texts) arguably making this Ireland's earliest securably datable inscription. This is also the longest inscription in early Irish and one of the few to contain a verbal form (ta·n-immairni, 3sg. augmented preterite of do·immnai 'commits, entrusts, bequeaths' plus 3sg. masc. infixed pronoun (a N), referring to LOC). In addition to mentioning a person and function of the stone, the text also, unusually, contains a reference to the Apostle Peter.

The name T'Ernóc comes from early Irish Iärn ‘iron-’, Iarnán ‘the iron one’, adding hypocoristic (common in clerical names) Mo/To Iärn-óc and resulting in Mernóc/Ternóc (e.g. Port Mearnóg/Portmarnock, Innis Mheàrnaig/Inchmarnock).

Bibliography: Crawford 1912, 219 ; Henry 1965, 118-120 ; Macalister 1949, 114-115, no.946 ; Petrie 1878, 27-29, Plate XIX ; Stokes and Strachan 1903, 289
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