Ask a Franciscan

Why Does the Celtic Cross Have a Ring?

Q: A friend recently gave me a Celtic cross. I have always liked that design, but I have never known why it includes a ring. Please explain.

A: There are actually many versions of the Celtic cross.The article “Irish Crosses” in the New Catholic Encyclopedia identifies contributing influences as coming from “the eastern Mediterranean, Gaul, Pictish Scotland and elsewhere in the British Isles.”

A common element is the ring surrounding the crossing of the vertical and horizontal beams. The circle was a pagan symbol for eternity, but it was easily associated with Christ’s victory over sin. Visit our website for Susan Hines-Brigger’s March 2001 St. Anthony Messenger cover story, “An Irish Journey Into Celtic Spirituality.” Christianity has often given its own new meaning to a symbol, place, title or practice that had pagan origins.

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