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Two Foreigners in Cork

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

I climbed Sheskin Hill in Bantry for the majestic view of the bay and the hills of West Cork. I found there the seven-foot tall Kilnaruane Stone Pillar, a miraculous survival from between 700 and 800 AD that depicts the life and beliefs of the Irish at that time.

One panel is treasured because it is the earliest depiction of an Irish currach boat. The figure steering it is probably St Brendan who is said to have built a cell on Kilnaruane before setting off on his voyages.

But it was another panel that held my attention: two exotic figures, the Egyptians Paul of Thebes and Anthony the Hermit. Similar images of the two exotic figures can be found on the high crosses of Moone, Castledermot and Monsterboice.

What did they refer to and how did they to get to Ireland? Anyone who wants to understand Ireland from the 4th to 10th century, and the legacy that left, obviously needs to start looking in their direction.

Who were the two figures seated at a table and sharing bread? Whatever they represent was at the living heart of what is unique in Irish Christianity. They are worth investigating further.

I would rate this site as 7 out of 10 for being forgotten and 9 out of 10 for what it suggests.


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