EMILI: Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions

CAV-002. Enniskeen Cross Slab

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Description: Stone cross slab (w: 0.39 x h: 0.66x d: 0.09). Spanning most of the dressed surface of the slab is a Latin outline cross. This expansional cross type is formed of deep, v-shaped grooves, deepest on the upper and sinister terminals, and are of a similar depth (c. 4 mm) as the formulaic ‘ŌR AR’ inscribed across the top of the slab on either side of the upper cross arm. The cross is well-executed, though the dexter terminal is somewhat irregular. Its dexter and sinister terminals end in large T-bars, or potents. The upper and lower arms have circular terminals. The main cross has a large circular expansion at its intersection, within which is an incised, equal-armed, encircled cross. This cross has widely splayed, wedge-shaped terminals and curved arm-pits, with an incised dot in each quadrant. While the inscription occupies the upper quadrants of the main cross, centrally positioned in its lower sinister quadrant is another incised, equal-armed, encircled cross, also with an incised dot in each quadrant. It differs from that at the intersection of the main cross in that it is formed from narrower, shallower grooves, and the arms terminate with no elaboration before the circular frame (Extract from a description of the cross form supplied by Kate Colbert, NUIG).
Text: Like the cross, the inscription appears to be pecked and is arranged horizontally in two lines either side of the top two quadrants of the cross.
Letters: The cross and the first line are executed with considerable care, the letters go deep into the stone, up to a depth of 4mm. The letters in the first line are c. 50mm high. The second line and an encircled cross in the bottom right section are much fainter... The letters are smaller, around 40mm, and they are shallower than those in the first line, going only 1mm into the stone (Callaghan and Stifter 2020, 262). This may be partially due to damage to the stone.

Date: Unknown.

Findspot: The stone was discovered by Brian Callaghan in Enniskeen graveyard (CV035-042002-) in July 2019. The stone was lying flat in a West-East orientation in the northern section of the graveyard near to the northern perimeter wall (Callaghan and Stifter 2020, 262). The rectangular graveyard, situated on a marshy site, is now disused. There are no visible remains of the church, which is mentioned in early sources. These is a holy well (Tobar Áirne) approximately 300m to the NE (Monasticon Hibernicum Database).
Original location: Enniskeen (Inis Caoin), Co. Cavan, 53.891919, -6.796237.

Last recorded location: Findspot






A prayer on behalf of ...


The word oróit 'prayer' is most commonly followed by the preposition do 'for'. However, a variant formula using the preposition ar 'on behalf of' is occassionally found.

The reading of the second line is less clear. The first letter could be either N or M. Two hastae of a capital nasal letter are visible, the oblique stroke connecting them is ascending. There is another such oblique stroke after the second hasta, which, however, is not followed by a straight vertical line, as would be expected for an M. The second letter could be a small E or perhaps the same kind of small A like in the first line. The third looks very much like C or perhaps E, although no middle stroke is discernible; there does not seem to be enough space for an A of the type seen in line 1. The last letter in this quadrant looks decidedly like a D; its ascender can be seen quite clearly on some of the stills. Rather unusually, the ascender rises upward almost vertically, while more commonly it runs parallel to be baseline. The first letter in the right quadrant is clearly an O with a stroke over it. Since this does seems to be neither a sacred name nor a function word, the possibility of an abbreviation stroke has been ruled out. Nasal strokes are very rare in Early Irish lapidary inscriptions. The next letter looks like a semi-uncial N, in contrast to the capital N/M at the beginning. However, this is already on the portion of the stone where the original surface has fallen off or has been chipped away. Next is possibly another C or the left half of a semi-uncial A. What comes out on the images as a stroke or swirl above the letter, is rather the edge of the broken-off section of the stone... Of the last letter, if indeed it is one, only a single vertical stroke is recognisable, which could point to an I or L (Callaghan and Stifter 2020, 262).

None of the collections of medieval Irish names (esp. Corpus Genealogiarum Hiberniae and Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae) contains a name beginning with Necd-, Nacd- or Naed- that could be reconciled with what remains of the inscription. If, albeit hesitatingly, we read the first letter as an M, a number of possibilities arise. The first three letters could stand for Mac, in which case the clerical names Mac Dochae, Mac Dommáin or Mac Donnáin, all otherwise attested, would be a possibility, as would be Mac Doborchon if it is assumed that the last bit of the name was abbreviated. Alternatively, the name could be completed as Máedóc, in which case the number of letters on the right section of the cross would not match that on the left section(Callaghan and Stifter 2020, 263).

Bibliography: Callaghan and Stifter 2020, 262-263
Text constituted from:


None available.

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