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The Rock of Cashel

Today, I want to bring you to another of Ireland’s iconic sites – the Rock of Cashel. 

The town of Cashel is located in county Tipperary, which is right in the middle of Ireland , and as I drive on the Dublin to Cork Road I can see the outcrop of rock as I pass along. So let’s take a detour and have a look see !

Let’s park at the foot of the rock at the Brú Brú Cultural centre. Sadly its closed right now due to the Covid crisis, but the centre offers a unique Irish cultural experience and will be well worth a visit next time.

As we walk up the steep hill to the rock let me tell you a little about what we are going to see . Now that we have caught our breath, let me tell you that according to local legend, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil’s Bit, a mountain about 30 km north of Cashel . When St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave in the hillside , he tore away part of the mountain resulting in the Rock landing in Cashel. Whether this is true or not, I can see why this rocky outcrop made such a landmark and it has a commanding view over the landscape.

The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion , and in 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church.

As we go through the gate we can see the picturesque complex and its medieval architecture. I’m told that few remnants of the early structures survive. The majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved round tower , dating from c.1100. Nearby is Cormac’s Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh. This was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. It is a sophisticated structure, with vaulted ceilings and wide arches, drawing on contemporary European architecture and infusing unique native elements.

Let’s have a look at the High Cross. Its design is unusual in that it does not have the more common circle design , but used two vertical shafts of stone to support the arms – one is now sadly broken.

I now go now through the ruined Cathedral, that was built between 1235 and 1270. As we gaze upwards it’s amazing to think of the craftsmen who built this incredible building almost one thousand years ago.

I can hear the crows calling , it really adds atmosphere to this impressive structure.

Two of the most famous people of Irish legend and history are associated with the Rock of Cashel. They are St. Patrick whom according to legend, arrived in Cashel in AD 432 and baptized King Aengus who became Ireland’s first Christian ruler. There is a story that tells that during the baptism ceremony Patrick accidently drove his crozier through Aengus’ foot! Aengus did not say a word or flinch as he thought this painful process was part of the baptism ceremony ! The second was Brian Ború, he was crowned High King here in 990. He is the only king who was able to unite all of Ireland under one ruler for any significant period of time.

The sky is clearing and we can see for miles and miles across the green landscape of the midlands – what a location !! At least it will be an easy walk downhill to the car.

I hope that you enjoyed this short walk with me today and enjoyed your visit to the Rock of Cashel.

Take care and all the best, Stephen

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