The Trinity Knot
To fully understand the significance of the Trinity Knot in Irish culture, we go on a journey right back in time. I have researched the origins of this little Motif, curious to comprehend the huge significance it has acquired in the passage of the centuries. Definitely, we can identify the image in the Book of Kells and other treasurers of that era and we can assume that It replaced the Shamrock in its representation of the holy trinity.
But, where did it first appear?
I am going to be so bold as to claim the very first depiction of the Trinity Knot for my County, Donegal. And on a rare treasure very close to my hometown.
The ruins of an early monastery are located in the townland of killaghtee on the main road between Donegal Town and Killybegs. Here, during the 6th to 9th century when Ireland was known as the “Island of Saints and Scholars”, monks lived a contemplative life using their time and devotion to works of art to glorify the newly adopted religion in Ireland.
The most important gravestone in the churchyard is the Killaghtee Cross which dates from around 650AD and is thought to mark the grave of an early monk, Aedh who was thought to have had a "cell" (little hut for prayer, contemplation and artistic endeavours) there.
The cross is important because it marks the transition from the flat grave slabs to the upright Celtic crosses which it pre-dates. The carving on the top of the stone is a Maltese Cross and can still be seen quite clearly.
To the bottom right below the Maltese Cross, although now barely discernible, there is a carving of the Trinity knot. The notion that it represents the Holy Trinity comes from the three points that emanate from the one source just like the Shamrock. The Knot is also thought to symbolise eternity as the design appears to have no start or end.
The images include a line drawn depiction of the cross outline and a photograph of the cross itself. The location of the church and graveyard is on St. John's Point, one of the most scenic drives on the Wild Atlantic Way and well worth a stop if you ever visit the area.
However, to overemphasise the importance of this Celtic knot to the Irish identity is not possible. It is without a doubt our favourite. I've included an image of a Trinity Knot created by contrasting foliage in a Sligo forest. It really does illustrate the significance of the precious symbol to the Irish.