Earlier this year, The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life invited students to use their creative writing skills by composing a poem or a short story inspired by the Cross of Cong. The Cross of Cong is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures which returns to Mayo after an absence of 170 years. It was made in 1123 to encase a fragment of the True Cross. The overall winning story, below, was by Patrick in 6th class.
The Story of the Cross of Cong
My name is Mael Isu. I live in an Augustinian monastery in Roscommon. Life here is hard and very strict. It is very cold here. I wear a cloak but it is still cold. We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. I have two jobs – working in the scriptorium and in the forge making chalices and other valuables. I am working on a cross for the High King of Connacht. It is a special cross. The king gave us gold and jewels with which to make it. His name is Tairdelbach.
Right now I am on the watch tower looking out for any Vikings. I am looking at my best friend farming. I can see the dinner getting ready in the refectory. From up high the monastery looks like a ring fort. I can see the bee-hive shaped cells where we sleep.
When the bell rings for dinner we all stop what we are doing and go to the refectory. I usually sit beside my best friend. Today, after dinner it’s someone else’s turn to go on watch. I go to the church to pray. The next day I start working on the cross for the King of Connacht. My friend helps me. We first carve some oak into the shape of a cross. We then make a mould and begin to carve designs on it. It is very hard work.
Half-way through I made a mistake. The second time I was almost finished when I went off the line and had to start again. The third time I got it finished. We smelted some gold and poured it in. When it dried, I put the rectangular shaped jewels onto the cross. I carved the jewels to the right size so they would fit. It was done in about six months.
The king collected it two days later. He thanked us and left. Sometime later the king gave the cross to the Bishop of Tuam. The Bishop in turn gave the cross to the monks in Cong Abbey. The cross was hidden for many years and found some years later before being brought to the National Museum in Dublin. Last year the cross was returned to Mayo after 170 years. Many people have visited the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar just to see our cross. I feel very proud.