The Clogher / Slawin Cross


This fourteenth century cross that is now in the Diocesan Archives in Monaghan is one of the few remaining relics from the broken Altars and plundered Monasteries of Lough Erne. It is one of a very small number of Christian artefacts that is still in the care of church authorities. Most others are in the National Museum in Dublin. Some may be in foreign countries, possibly brought there by Viking raiders.


This cross is one of our most important medieval treasures. Thee is no doubt but that it is in the same class as the Ardagh Chalice, which was discovered in Co. Limerick, hence it’s name. The Chalice was discovered in 1868 along with four broaches and a bronze cup. The articles date from the eighth or ninth century and are outstanding examples of ecclesiastical metal work. Another famous Christian artefact is the Cross of Cong. This ancient processional cross is a masterpiece of religious art. It was made in Roscommon in 1223 for the Cathedral of Tuam by order of Turlough O’Connor. It’s function being to enshrine a portion of the True Cross that had been sent to O’Connor from Rome. The Cross was later brought to Cong by his son Roderick. This priceless reliquary is fashioned in oak, plated with copper, and decorated with beautiful gold filigree work of Celtic pattern. It was discovered in a chest in the village in the early part of the nineteenth century.


 The “Clogher Cross” was placed in the custody of Fr. Edward Quigley, curate of Garrison parish in 1898 by a man named Campbell that the priest had been attending. This man lived in the town land of Carranmore, the cross had at some time been placed in the care of his family and had been in the house for at least 50 years. This cross had not been lost in the same way as the Ardagh Chalice, for the Campbell family had known of its existence for many years. It was at least 500 years old and for the later part of its life had survived the ravages of time and spoliation.


The bed that the sick man was in had a canopy over it, he said to the priest, “ I know that you are interested in old things, if you reach over the canopy you will some thing there, lift it down and take it with you.”  Campbell said, “It had hung long ago under the roof of old thatched church at Slawin on the shores of Lough Erne. It is very old and the people loved it.”  The history of this magnificent work of art can only be based on what knowledge is available about the period when it was made. The great craftsmanship that went into its production tells that the people who made it were top experts in the art of bronze artefacts. It would have been designed and commissioned for an important Abbey some where in the Lough Erne district.


The remains of a number of major Abbeys still exist. Devenish, Innismacsaint, Abbey Assaroe in Ballyshannon. Along with the smaller Abbey’s at Slawin. Keenaghan and Teetunney. There is a strong claim to an Abbey having been located at Castle Caldwell and it is thought that the castle was built on the site of the Abbey after the Plantation of Ulster. There is a strong possibility that the Cross was taken for safely from it’s original church during the Cromwellian and plantation times and brought to Slawin where in remained in the care of the Campbell family until it was handed over to Fr. Quigley.  

Local history records that St. Ninnidh had a church in the Toura area where the Campbell lived. There is a hill and a well that bear his name in the town land of Callagheen. There is now no evidence of the thatched Church mentioned by Campbell. It can be taken that if he and his family held the Cross in safe custody for many years that he is correct about the thatched Church or Mass house.


Who made the decision to call the cross “The Clogher Cross” is not recorded, but other Christian artefacts have generally been named after the place where they had been kept safe and eventually returned into the care of the church.