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Rock of Cashel (County Tipperary)

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Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

© 2004 Janet Barth

The Bottom Line

If you can live without a picture-postcard photo, the best time to visit the Rock of Cashel might well be on a drizzly, overcast autumn day or even in winter - during the main tourist season you may feel claustrophobic here. Granted, the Rock is one of Ireland's best-known tourist destinations, so you might expect a few fellow travelers. But to enjoy the buildings in some peace and quiet will be hard during the summer months.

Pros

  • Probably the finest example of an "eccleciastical stronghold" in Ireland.
  • Combines remains from the 12th to the 15th century in one very compact site.
  • Rich (and sometimes strange) carvings.

Cons

  • Can be too crowded in the main tourist season.

Description

  • Site used as fortress and royal seat since at least the 4th century.
  • Church took possession of the Rock of Cashel in 1101.
  • Important eccleciastical buildings are the round tower, Cormac's Chapel and the cathedral (11th, 12th and 13th century).
  • The Rock of Cashel was also known as Caiseal na Rí (Ringfort of Kings) and St. Patrick's Rock (the saint visited in 450).

Guide Review - Rock of Cashel (County Tipperary)

The first glimpse of the Rock of Cashel is usually from the main road past Cashel - standing on a rocky outcrop the whole ensemble is visible from some distance. And then disappears as you try to find your way to it. Which, combined with the vantage point on top of a round tower of 92 feet, would make it ideal to prepare against any marauding armies passing through.

Indeed the Rock of Cashel started as a fortress, being the seat of the Kings of Munster from the 4th century onwards. In 1101 the kings handed the rock to the bishops, the hill became church property. Ever since Saint Patrick had (reputedly) visited Cashel in 450 the Christian heritage of the site was held in high esteem. And the church started an ambitious building programme - starting with a round tower in the late 11th century. The 12th century saw the addition of Cormac's Chapel, a Romanesque jewel. One century later a cathedral was built.

Smaller raids on the site continued, as the exhibition explains. With even some hilarity ensuing - a nobleman, when questioned why he gad tried to burn Cashel down, offered the explanation that he thought the bishop would still be inside! Honest, if not very diplomatic. The high crwn of diplomacy has to go to Miler Magrath, managing to be both a Protestant andatholic archbishop - concurrently. Totally abandoning all notions of diplomacy, Cromwellian troops stormed the rock in 1647, slaughtering around 3,000 occupants. In the 18th century the cathedral was finally abandoned.

Today's visitor will enjoy a host of ruins, all of impressive size and fairly decent structural integrity, containing a riot of carvings. In Cormac's Chapel you can witness a centaur fighting an enormous lion. And the tombs in the cathedral bear witness to the stonemason's art, being covered with much fine detail. You will even find Miler Magrath's tomb.

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