Northern Ireland

1,100-year-old Downpatrick High Cross being moved

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Media captionThe 1,100-year-old cross is being moved from outside Down Cathedral

Work is to begin later to remove a 1,100-year-old cross from outside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick.

Downpatrick High Cross is to be hoisted from its current position and moved to nearby Down County Museum.

There, it will become the centrepiece of a new extension due to be built soon.

The intricately patterned Mourne granite cross, carved around AD 900 as a "prayer in stone", is of historical, cultural and religious significance.

Its first location is believed to have been the early medieval monastery on the Hill of Down.

Following the Reformation, the High Cross was taken down and was used as Downpatrick's market cross. It was damaged in a busy town centre location before being dismantled and its parts dispersed around the town.

In the 1890s, the parts were gathered together by Francis Joseph Bigger and reconstructed outside Down Cathedral, with the help of subscriptions from donors.

Once safely positioned in Down County Museum, the High Cross will be cleaned, drawn and photographed by a team of experts.

It will be replaced, next year, by an exact replica which will be made by a Kilkeel stonemason using granite to be blasted from a local quarry at Thomas Mountain.

New photographs and scans of the cross done in preparation for the move already show details of the carvings which have not been apparent in recent years, leading to revised interpretations of the biblical scenes from the Old and New Testaments depicted on its front and rear faces.