Celtic Origin, Meaning of the Donegal Crest
To discover the crest's origin, we have to go back in
time by over 1500 years, to C.AD433. That's how long this treasured
image has endured, although to the best of our knowledge, the original is sadly long lost.
A Dynasty of Celtic Kings... and Saint Patrick
At that time the
Celtic tribes of Ireland were in the earliest stages of abandoning paganism
and a barbaric, violent culture to follow the peaceful path of Christ, led by Saint Patrick.
St.Patrick had heroically returned to the land of his former captors and enslavement to promote Christianity among them.
Laeghaire MacNiall was the reigning High King of Ireland. One of his
brothers, a heroic Celtic warrior king, Conall Gulban reigned in the
Southern Donegal territory known as Tír Chonaill, or Tyrconnell.
Both kings were sons of that famous former High King of Ireland
Niall of the Nine Hostages, and King Conall was an ancestor of the
powerful O'Donnell dynasty, so strongly connected with Donegal Town.
King Conall Becomes a Christian
O'Donnell Coat of Arms exhibited in Donegal Castle
Part of St.Patrick's strategy of non-violence appears to
have involved the Christianizing of royalty, nobility and druids first, trusting that the people would be inspired to follow.
King Conall Gulban is believed to have been the first among Gaelic Ireland's privileged classes to accept the teachings of St.Patrick.
The Donegal king embraced the Christian faith with a remarkable zeal and was duly
baptized by the great saint.
How a Celtic King's Battle Shield became the Origin of the Donegal Crest
King Conall's enthusiastic conversion to Christianity pleased St.Patrick.
According to ancient manuscripts such as the 'Life and Acts of Saint Patrick' and 'Lebhar Inghine i Dhomhnaill'
('The Book of Inghine O'Donnell') . . .
The great saint lifted his
sacred crozier, the 'Bachall Íosa' and, striking the King's battle shield with it, caused the royal
shield to become miraculously engraved with the sign of the Cross.
Thus King Conall's shield became the first Coat of Arms in the history of Ireland ever recorded.
It predates the impressive English heraldic system from the twelfth century by more than seven hundred years.
The Meaning Behind the Powerful Symbol
Donegal Town Coat of Arms
St.Patrick then gave King Conall the popular Latin motto of the ancient Roman Emperor Constantine "In Hoc Signo Vinces", meaning 'In this sign is your victory'.
That is, that from then on King Conall and his descendants would be
victorious, as long as they followed the sign of the Cross and Christ's