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Irish examples with a head in cross form include the Cross of Kells, Ardboe High Cross, the crosses at Monasterboice, the Cross of the Scriptures, Clonmacnoise and those in Scotland at Iona and the Kildalton Cross, which may be the earliest to survive in good condition.
Surviving, free-standing crosses are in Cornwall, including St Piran's cross at Perranporth, and Wales.
The Celtic Revival of the mid-19th century led to an increased use and creation of Celtic crosses in Ireland.The first examples date to about the 9th century and occur in two groups: at Ahenny in Ireland, and at Iona, an Irish monastery off the Scottish coast. A variety of crosses bear inscriptions in ogham, an early medieval Irish alphabet.Standing crosses in Ireland and areas under Irish influence tend to be shorter and more massive than their Anglo-Saxon equivalents, which have mostly lost their headpieces.The form gained new popularity during the Celtic Revival of the 19th century; the name "Celtic cross" is a convention dating from that time.The shape, usually decorated with interlace and other motifs from Insular art, became popular for funerary monuments and other uses, and has remained so, spreading well beyond Ireland.
There are a number of theories as to its origin in Ireland and Britain.