Share this record

Contact Artefacts
please if you have any comments or more information regarding this record.

Celtic Cross
Robben Island, Western Cape



Click to view large map

33°48'51.78" S 18°22'41.40" E Alt: 21m

See more photographs

This large, finely crafted timber Celtic Cross stands as a landmark in close proximity to the south-east corner of the staff Burial Ground on the south side of the Island. Made by a very capable joiner out of large sections of solid hardwood it is mounted on a low four-stepped masonry plinth. Four geometric cut-outs form negative spaces within the crossing and are a notable feature of the design. Despite the harsh environmental conditions on the island the timber of the cross is in remarkably good condition.

Another feature of the cross is the monogram I. H. C., in metal letters in a fine gothic font - pinned to the front face of the circular crossing, The monogram (or Christogram) forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ.

In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and among Catholics and Protestants), the most common Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, IHƩOYƩ, iota-eta-sigma, or IHƩ.

The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is either in its lunate form, represented here by C, (not in its final form, represented by S). Such a monogram is traditionally used as a religious symbol within the Christian Church.

The origin and history of the timber cross is presently unknown. It has been suggested that it may be related to the so-called Irish Town, which was located in close proximity to the south. Irish Town was shown on the 1894 Surveyor General's detailed survey drawing of the Island - but it is no longer extant.

Submitted by: W Martinson, June 2019.


Riley, P Conservation Survey of Robben Island, National Monuments Council, Cape Town, 1993.

Wikipedia: (accessed 5 June 2019)

Writings about this entry

Basset, BW, Rudner, J & National Monuments Council. Division of Professional and Technical Services. 1986. An annotated survey of buildings and sites of architectural, historical and contextual importance, and recommendations concerning a conservation policy for Robben Island. Unknown: National Monuments Council. pg 6, ill between 6 and 7