Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Celtic Cross for the Birds

In the graveyard of Trinity Church Cemetery, Manhattan, across the street from the North Presbyterian Church of Manhattan, stands a large Celtic Cross that dominates the immediate landscape and marks the grave of John James Audubon. I recently discovered the site, or rather had it pointed out to me by my wife, when we attending an event at the North Presbyterian Church of Manhattan.
My wife and I have been intrigued by Celtic Crosses and have undertaken pilgrimages to see many in Ireland and Scotland on two different occasions. Although the Celtic Cross that marks Audubon’s grave is far younger than most Celtic Crosses in Scotland and Ireland it is just as impressive, if not more so, rivaling crosses on Iona, as well as in Monasterboice and Clonmacnoise.
Thanks to some excellent research by Corey Finger and reported on the 10,000 Birds blog, I learned alot about the Audubon monument, including that the original block of North River Bluestone used for it weighed 14 ton. Once carved, the final cross weighed seven ton and stands 19 feet high.
Audubon is most likely buried in Trinity Church Cemetery because Audubon donated the land for it. What I cannot figure out is why a Celtic Cross was chosen for the monument’s design. Audubon was neither Irish nor Scottish and as far as I have been able to determine had no Celtic roots. I am not she whether or not he was a Christian. The monument was not Audubon’s or his family’s choice. It was the choice of a group of New Yorkers intent on more properly marking his grave. So why did they choose a Celtic Cross to do so? Why not a giant bird? Or a representation of one or more of his paintings?
If you find yourself in the vicinity of Trinity Church on the upper west side of Manhattan, walk into the graveyard and see this Celtic Cross for yourself. Standing near the cross, close your eyes, feel the breeze on your face, block out the noise of traffic, listen the songs of birds, and imagine you are in the Scotland or Ireland.

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