Sunday, 24 April 2016
This carving only came to light during the completion of the Archaeological Inventory of North Tipperary in the early 90s. There are two schools of thought about this carving. One is that it is 9th / 10th century depiction of Christ the Warrior. You can just make out a figure holding a shield over their torso with two hands. It has been compared to the figures on White Island in Co. Fermanagh that are thought to date to the 9th/10th Centuries. The other school of thought suggests that it is of post medieval date and a naïve form of folk art.
The concept of Christ the Warrior is a very interesting and is meant to date to early Christian / Medieval Ireland. I first read about it in Fr Sean O'Dúinn's book "Where Three Streams Meet". http://www.columba.ie/index.php/where-three-streams-meet.html
We all think of Jesus Christ as being this peaceful figure who turns the other cheek. However as you might imagine this was a tough sell to the pagans of Ireland who perhaps still worshipped gods such Lugh who was a man of action and was still a warrior society.
In his book O'Duinn (who is himself a monk) tells the story of when Jesus leads a raid on hell itself. Unfortunately I can't find my copy of the above book at the moment but a 2014 book "The Conversion of Britain: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain, 600-800" deals with a similar idea. In it they talk of a 10th century poem where Jesus is the leader of a group of apostles who raid hell to rescue John the Baptist. Extract from book I believe this is someway similar to the idea of the "Harrowing of Hell" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell in which Jesus goes down to Hell after the cruxifiction on Good Friday and "brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world (excluding the damned)."
Similar ideas to this relating to Christ the Warrior are mentioned in An Irish Motif on a Group of Early Irish High Crosses? (pg 71) on JSTOR.
As you can imagine this warrior version of Jesus was probably more appealing to the Gaelic Irish at the time of the introduction of Christianity.
"Situated on an E-facing slope of rising ground in a valley in a mountainous region with a nearby stream to the E. Referred to as the 'Church of Kilcascoln' in the taxation of the Diocese of Cashel in 1302 (CDI, vol. 5, 281). A nineteenth-century RC church built on the site of a medieval parish church (TN032-002), the wall-footings of which were removed to facilitate the construction of the present church. According to local information an Early Christian decorated pillar stone now in the graveyard (TN032-002001) was discovered in the fabric of the wall-footings and was erected in its present location in the graveyard. The pillar is decorated with a figure of Christ the Warrior with a shield carved in relief and a vertical slot/groove running up the side. This is a possible caryatid used as a decorative frame around an object inside an Early Christian church. The oval-shaped face is similar to the figures on the Moon high cross in Co. Kildare while the depiction of Christ the Warrior on pillar stones is found on possible caryatids from White Island, Lower Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Both the Moon high cross and the Fermanagh figures are dated to the ninth/tenth century and it is possible that a similar date could be assigned to the Killoscully figure. However the naivety of the carving along with the unusual representation of the feet may suggest a folk art tradition of the nineteenth century. The groove along the side of the pillar could have acted as a support for an altar/sedilia with the figure acting as decorative border."