ROCK OF CASHEL
St Patrick’s Rock Near Tipperary
Approaching from afar the Rock of Cashel appears like a impregnable
mystical fortress city, resting atop its singular hill like a sentinel,
island of land. Majestic and foreboding at the same time - a fortified
medieval monastic city behind great walls rather than a castle, with most
of its ruined buildings from the 12th and 13th Century when the fortress
was granted to the Catholic church. The site of Cashel was the traditional
seat of the Kings of Munster in Ireland since the 5th Century when St Patrick
converted King Aenghus to Christianity, given it the name of St Patrick’s
Rock. Brian Boru was also crowned King of Ireland on this spot 500 years
later in the 11th Century. You can see why this was a prime site for the
seat of medieval power when standing at the foot of the great stones, the
view from the Rock of Cashel looks out on all sides over miles of green
fields of grazing sheep.
The buildings at the Rock of Cashel consist of the well preserved round tower, the earliest structure from 1100. The Romanesque royal chapel of King Cormac III of Munster, completed in 1134, with its twin towers and barrel vaulted roof and a well preserved 12th Century Irish fresco. The Cathedral at Cashel is the largest structure completed, in 1270, now roofless, with the sky showing through the great stone walls. The cathedral is connected to the residential quarters of the Bishops, with the Vicars Choral Hall added in the 15th Century. The Rock of Cashel was sacked and much of the complex destroyed by Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces in 1647, when the Irish confederate troops defending the rock and all the Catholic priests were massacred, and many of its early religious artifacts looted.
Aside from the Rock of Cashel, the town of Cashel has a quarter of Georgian townhouses with the Bolton Library housed in the Chapter House of the Cathedral Church of St. Patrick's Rock, containing one of the best antiquarian book collections outside of Dublin (see Trinity Library Book of Kells), assembled by Theophilis Bolton, the Archbishop of Cashel from 1730 to 1744, including works by Dante, Swift, Calvin, and Machiavelli, and the smallest book in Ireland. At the base of the Rock of Cashel, Brú Ború is a cultural historical village, celebrating native Irish music, song, dance and theatre, with a genealogy center for ancestry research. The ‘Sounds of History’ is an underground sonic journey through the story of Ireland from ancient times to the present day.
Starting from the castle rock, take a walk on the Tipperary Heritage Trail to two nearby abbey ruins, also destroyed in the English reformation. Hore Abbey, sometimes known as St.Mary's, a ruined Cistercian monastery previously belonging to the Benedictines, but given over to the more powerful order in 1270 (see Jerpoint Abbey), and Dominic's Abbey to the southeast of the Rock of Cashel, founded in 1243 by Dominican friar David McKelly, later Archbishop of Cashel who is buried in the Chapel of the Apostles within the walls of “The Rock”.
Visiting the Rock of Cashel
Cashel in Tipperary County is one of the most visited tourist destinations in southwest Ireland, two hours from Dublin via the M8 motorway, about an hour from Limerick or Cork. Admission for adults is €5.30, students €2.10 and a family ticket of €11.50. Opening hours vary depending on season, closing at 7pm in summer and 5:30pm most of the rest of the year, but last entrance is 45 minutes before closing. © Bargain Travel Europe
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