The Central Bank of Ireland celebrates Ireland’s magnificent High Crosses with the issue of a very special Gold Proof coin. This gold coin is one of the smallest in the world and its design is the work of renowned Irish artist Thomas Ryan. The detail depicted on this 11.00 mm coin is simply incredible. High crosses are found throughout the Celtic regions of Britain and Ireland. However, they are exceptional in their fine craftsmanship, scale and their vast numbers. Irish High Crosses often feature a stone ring around their intersection. Over the centuries this distinctive ringed cross has become an instantly recognisable symbol of Irish Christianity. Many of these magnificent stone monuments date back to the 8th century and later examples often featured ornate carvings of scenes from the Bible. It is thought that monks would have used these illustrations or ‘sermons in stone’ to make their teachings more engaging for their audiences. Saint Muiredach’s High Cross at Monasterboice, shown below, is one the finest examples of an Irish High Cross. In preparing his design for this coin, Thomas Ryan said, “Irish High Crosses are amongst the finest of their type in grandeur of scale, nobility of design and competence of execution. Notable examples like the crosses of Monasterboice, Castledermot, Kells and Clonmacnoise attest to the high artistic skill of their makers and confirm the inclusion of the great High Crosses in the pantheon of high artistry that is afforded the illuminated manuscripts and metalwork of the time.” Thomas Ryan attended the Limerick School of Art, then the National College of Art in Dublin. In 1957 he first exhibited at the RHA and became an associate member in 1968. He has had many commissions for portraits and he is also well known for his Irish historical scenes, especially those of the 1916 Rising, and for his sensitive still-life paintings. He has exhibited at the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin and was President of the RHA from 1982 to 1993. He has designed a number of significant Irish coins including the Irish £1 coin featuring a red deer, which was introduced in 1990 to replace the £1 note, the 1988 Dublin Millennium 50p coin and in 2008, the gold and silver coins commemorating famous Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.