The Irish High Cross or Celtic Cross in the POW cemetery of World War I in Dietkirchen

By many people, visitors as well as locals, often unnoticed and not further considered in detail, the village of Dietkirchen has, besides its probably most famous building, the Romanesque collegiate church of St. Lubentius, another attraction.

This is the prisoner of war cemetery from the time of the 1st World War, on whose grounds there is also an Irish High Cross, also called Celtic Cross. This monument represents a unique memorial not only for our region, but also for the whole of Germany. It is possibly the largest Irish High Cross in Europe, i.e. outside Ireland.

The Dietkirchen school chronicle writes about the erection of the cross in 1917:

At Pentecost this year, the cemetery of the local prison camp received a magnificent decoration. The Irish prisoners who had been in the camp there in the previous year have donated a wonderful monument in strict Romanesque style in loving memory of their comrades buried there.
A huge cross rises on a mighty foundation. From the base of the cross it measures 3 m and is made of one piece. The width of the cross is 1.60 m, the thickness 0.50 m. It is executed in sandstone.

In the middle of the front you can see the image of the crucified one. At the upper end is the relief image of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. On the two arms of the cross there are two reliefs of saints.
The image of the Saviour has a powerful effect on the viewer. On the back you can see four Irish coats of arms: high above three crowns, in the middle the harp, on the left the eagle with the sword, on the right an outstretched hand.

All sculptures and reliefs are chiseled out of the stone.
On the back and on the base are the 34 names of the Irish prisoners resting there.

A highly symbolic relief bears the lower part of the cross on the back. The rising sun sends its rays, probably the hope of the Irish people. At a small chapel in the relief, a small cross stands upright, indicating the help of God, a small falling cross symbolises the deceptive hopes of this earth. The dog, as a symbol of vigilance, points to the future, – the Irish people want to be vigilant, awaiting the appropriate moment of liberation from long suffering.

The design of this work is by architect A. Meister in Bochum i. W. The execution was carried out by master stonemason Mr. Johann Klein from Münster i. W. The price is about 6000 m.

 

The editors of the Irland Journal have determined in their issue 03-2007
One can equate 1 M (= 1 Reichsmark) with about 12 DM, based on hourly wages and prices at that time. 6,000 Reichsmark would thus be about 72,000 DM or a good 36,000 Euro. An inquiry of the journal with a master stone sculptor on the Lower Rhine showed that such a cross today could hardly be made for less than 80,000 Euro, the material alone would be more expensive than the complete cross 90 years ago.


Over all these years, however, time and nature have left their wounds in this cross due to the effects of the weather. The sandstone, a building material that is by nature rather fragile, is extremely badly damaged in some places, so that only a speedy to be listed activity can save the cross. Waiting for financially rosier times from the public authorities will benefit decay rather than preservation.

In 2004 the first action was therefore an Irish Folk Open Air concert, the proceeds of which were used to preserve and restore the cross.
For further information see menu item “History of World War I. cemetery and POW camp” and/or “Timetable POW camp – POW cemetery”.