Cross-community service dedicated to eighth century replica monument

Cross-community service dedicated to eighth century replica monument

5 September 2018

A REPLICA of St Patrick’s Cross at Down Cathedral has been formally unveiled following a cross-community dedication service.

The replica eighth century cross — which stands an imposing 12-feet high and weighs five tonnes — is located just yards from where the patron saint is buried on the historic Hill of Down, with the Mournes in the distance providing a stunning back.

Bishops from the Church of Ireland and Catholic communities took part in last Friday afternoon’s service and they were joined by local clergy and monks from the Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor.

Friday’s ceremony had been pencilled in for earlier in the summer but had to be postponed following the discovery of medieval human remains while contractors were preparing the ground for the installation of the cross, carved from Mourne granite excavated from Thomas’ Mountain high up in the mountain range.

The intricately designed structure was manufactured by the Kilkeel firm of McConnell Brothers and representatives from the firm were joined by Church of Ireland Bishop Harold Miller, Down and Connor Bishop Noel Treanor, the Dean of Down, the Very Rev Henry Hull, and members of the Cathedral Chapter.

Dean Hull, who led the short service of dedication, said the ceremony marked a very special day and was delighted a number of people heavily involved in the project were present, including Dr Mike King from the Down County Museum.

Dean Hull explained that Dr King played a key role initiating the replica cross project, financed by Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

“Mike worked hard along with others to bring about the cross which replicates one that was in place around 800AD. Inside Down Cathedral, there are some old stones and through research, Mike discovered they were in fact part of the original St Patrick’s Cross,” he said.

“In some old drawings of the cathedral you can see broken portions of the cross which marked nearby St Patrick’s grave. Obviously this old Celtic cross had fallen down and was broken with some pieces placed inside the church.”

Dean Hull said Dr King, with the help of Philip Armstrong, redesigned the replica cross based on drawings and sketches and eventually, through the help of McConnell Brothers, the imposing replica cross was produced.

Those in attendance at the dedication ceremony were told that the source of the granite used to make the replica cross was most probably the same as that from which the original was made, Dean Hull said the cross is at the heart of the Christian faith and that because Jesus died on the cross, people are reconciled to God and find forgiveness. 

“We are reconciled to God but through the cross we can be reconciled to each other, with the cross reminding us of our common faith as Christians. It is lovely today that Christians from different traditions are able to stand around this cross today because the cross is a symbol of Christian unity and it reminds us that we have one faith,” he continued.

Dean Hull said when people look at the cross and reflect back to Patrick and to the days of an undivided church, they are reminded that despite all has happened, “we are still one in Christ” with the cross a symbol of what people have in common  — Christian unity.

Concluding before the start of a short religious dedication service, Dean Hull thanked the Lecale and Down Historical Society which helped with the restoration project and the former Down Council and current Newry, Mourne and Down Council for their support.

Dean Hull’s words were reflected by Bishop Miller, who said a prayer as part of the dedication service along with Bishop Treanor.

The clerics then gathered at the base of the sculpture where they placed their palms over the imprint of a hand in the cross’s base and were joined by Bishop Grant Le Marque, former Anglican Bishop of the Horn of Africa, who was visiting the Down and Dromore Diocese.

“Here we have Christian hands together,” said Bishop Miller, encouraging other people from all over the world to visit the cathedral to make the same gesture.

He added: “The cross is never just something at a distance; it is the very heart of our faith in Christ, our relationship with Christ and our salvation in Christ.”