EMILI: Early Medieval Irish Latinate Inscriptions

WEM-001. Twyford (Bealin) High Cross

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Description: National Monuments Service Record Number: WM029-008----. Stone, high cross, w: 1.06 (estimate across damaged arms) x h: 2.10 (above modern base) x d: 0.27. A high cross, decorated on all surfaces with animal (including a hunting scene) and interlace patterns, with damage to the N arm and only the lower segment of the south side of the ring has been preserved (detailed description by Harbison (1992, vol. 1, 25-6) available at Archaeology.ie).
Text: The inscription fills the lower panel on the W face, is arranged horizontally in six lines and is, unusually, carved in relief (Harbison 1992, 26).
Letters: The A's are in the 'OC' form, while some letters such as the L and D in line 3 [actually 4] and the H in line 2 [actually 3] appear to have wedge-shaped finials. The Ts are curved, the Ss are reversed and the Hs are minuscule. Each of the four Rs are different. The examples on lines 2, 4 and 6 all verge towards majuscule forms, but that on line 1 is clearly in half-uncial. The E is of the closed minuscule form, but the horizontal stroke is extended. The L is curved and the G is half-uncial. The D has a vertical ascender and an open bow (Celtic Inscribed Stones Project).

Date: Late eighth/early ninth century A.D?

Findspot: The earliest known mention of the high cross is in the Ordnance Survey Letters (OSL 1837, vol. 1, 68) where it is said to have been removed from an old graveyard in Twyford Dememse. No trace of this graveyard is now visible but it is possibly the location annotated on the 1837 ed. OS 6-inch map as ‘Site of Monastery’ with a possible holy well 100m to N Archaeology.ie). The 'monastery' at Twyford [possibly 'Ford of the Tuath'] has been identified by Cox (1946, 62-3) with Íseal Chiaráin ('low place of St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise').
Original location: Twyford, near Bealin (Béal Linne), Co. Westmeath, 53.439165, -7.841329.

Last recorded location: Standing on top of a hill in the former Twyford demesne N of Bealin and now known as the 'Bealin High Cross'.

Interpretive

OROIT
AR TUA-
THGAIL
LA ((S)) DER-
5NATH IN
CHRO ((S)) ((S)) A

Diplomatic

OROIT
ARTUA
THGAIL
LA ((S)) DER
5NATHIN
CHRO ((S)) ((S)) A

Translation:

A prayer on behalf of Túathgal for whom this cross has been made

Commentary:

A relatively rare example here of oróit 'prayer' written out in full (usually abbreviated to OR), although the final -IT, read by Macalister, is no longer clear. The word oróit is generally most commonly followed by the preposition do 'for' (cf. Okasha and Forsyth's Munster Corpus). However, a variant formula using the preposition ar 'on behalf of' is also quite common (cf. occurrences of do and ar in the index of words).

The personal name Túathgal is not very common. It is a compound of túath 'people, territory' and gal 'warlike ardour, fury, valour'. The name occurs once in the Annals of Ulster, in the year 811 AD with Tuathgal, abbas sruithe Cluana, moritur 'Tuathgal, abbot of the elders of Cluain [i.e. Clonmacnoise], died'. It is certainly possible that this cross was commissioned by an abbot at Clonmacnoise. If we are dealing with the same individual, then Bealin is the earliest ringed cross in stone for which we have a firm date (Stalley 2020, 15).

The verbal form ·dernath (would expect ·dernad, cf. a very similar inscription at Monasterboice LOU-001) is the 3sg. prototonic, augmented preterite passive ('has been made') of do·gní 'to make', with a prepositional relaitve las(a) n- 'by whom'). However, rather than expressing that Túathgal is the craftsman who made the cross (for which we might rather expect the from do·rigni '(who) has made'), the use of the prepositional relative to express agency with the passive verb suggests that Túathgal was the commissioner of the cross, which is best conveyed by the translation 'for whom this cross has been made' (cf. Okasha and Forsyth 2001, 29).

Bibliography: Cox 1946, vol. II, No. 11; 52-63 ; Harbison 1992, vol. 1, 25-6 ; Macalister 1949, 79, no.871 ; Stalley 2020, 15
Text constituted from:

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