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Photographer's Note

Pictured here is a view of the Rock of Cashel in Co Tipperary, without doubt one of the most iconic Irish landmarks and one which stands proud on a rocky outcrop 300 feet in the air. It is visible for miles around, and it is easy to see why this location was chosen for this historic stronghold.

Ancient legends associate the site with Saint Patrick, and archeological excavations show traces of a church dating back to the 9th century but most of what we see today came into being in the early 11th century. Its name comes from the Irish word Caiseal which means stone fort. The 12th century saw the Rock become a major Christian center. Despite what we know the Rock as today, it has been known as a fortified position in the country since the fourth century.

It is recorded that St Patrick converted the King of Munster Aengus MacMutfraich to Christianity here in around 450 AD. After this, the site became the seat of power of the Kings of Munster, the most famous of whom was the legendary Brian Boru.

Boru was crowned here in 990 and he went on to become the only king who was able to unify the whole of Ireland under one ruler. In the days of Brian Boru, Ireland was very much a feudal society with very few towns, and certainly no cities.

After his crowning, Bran Boru ruled from here for 24 years and his position was instrumental in bringing a sense of law and order, and with that a new prosperity to the country. He fought off Viking invasions including the best known battle of Clontarf where he defeated their hoards. After the Vikings were defeated at Clontarf, they remained content to stay within the confines of their cities in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and others. Of course, they reached outside sporadically to fight epic battles around the country but in time the Vikings became as Irish as the Irish themselves.

In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ui Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. Although the site itself is much older, most of the buildings here today are from the 12th and 13th centuries. The oldest and tallest structure is the round tower (pictured here on the left) which is 90 feet tall and dates from app 1100.

In 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, Cashel was sacked by English Parliamentarian troops. The Irish confederate troops stationed there were massacred as were all of the Roman Catholic clergy. The English troops looted or destroyed many important religious artifacts. Fearing a slaughter at the hands of Cromwells troops similar to that of Drogheda which saw 3500 men, women and children butchered, the townspeople of Cashel flooded into the cathedral believing they would be safe under the Medieval law of Sanctuary. Despite this centuries old custom, Cromwells troops stacked huge piles of turf around the building, set it alight and watched as everybody inside burned to death.

After this, the cathedral began to be used by the Church of Ireland Protestant faith, but they abandoned it in the mid 1700s' As they left, Arthur Price, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel ordered the roof to be removed from the structure so that he could use the valuable lead which made up a large part of it. This left the site exposed to the elements and it began to decay. Price's decision to remove the roof on what had been the jewel among Irish church buildings was criticized before and since.

For decades now, renovations and archeological digs have been ongoing at the site, with the famous Cormacs Chapel being under scaffold for at least 4 years now. Of course, its worth it for the amazing finds they have made here, and for the ongoing protection of the site.

Today, it is open to tourists who can view the story of this place in the multimedia room (built into one of the old walled fortifications) and at their leisure stroll around the grounds of this place which has seen such an incredible mix of those people who influenced Irish history. From St Patrick to Brian Boru to Cromwell, the Rock of Cashel is a wonderful piece of Irish history.

The picturesque complex has a character all of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2576 W: 12 N: 6141] (21474)
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