One Thousand years of Ireland history come together in one iconic and well known Irish heritage site- The Rock of Cashel at the small town of Cashel in County Tipperary.
On this page I will introduce you to some
crucial moments in the 1,000 year history of this historic spot.
15th century window at the Hall of the Vicar's Choral, faithfully reconstructed.
Initially, the Rock of Cashel was the main royal site for
the kings of Munster. During its’ time as a royal site (compare Rathcroghan), most likely, there would have
been a stone fort on top of the hill as the name ‘cashel’ means stone fort. Most likely, the site had ritual and ceremonial significance.
In early Christian times, Brian Boru was inaugurated as King
of Munster at the Rock of Cashel in 978. In 1002 he was the first King of Munster to become High
King of Ireland. Again, the inauguration took place at this site. Brian Boru
died at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. No buildings are left from this period.
Most likely, the era of the stone fort continued until this point.
1,000 years of Ireland history are reflected in the ruins at The Rock of Cashel. See the round tower (built 1101) on the left and the Cathedral on the right
In 1101 Brian Boru’s
grandson Muircheartach Ua Briain King of Munster, gifted the Rock to the
church. Why would he do that? This was
a political decision. His rivals for the kingship of Munster, the McCarthy’s
were gaining power and he knew they were interested in taking this strategic
and symbolic spot. The McCarthy’s were unlikely to be able to do so if the Rock
was in the hands of the church because the public would have turned against
them. Muircheartach Ua Briain was a Bishop as well as King and had an insider
understanding of the growing power of the church. He made this generous gesture
towards the church In order to preserve his own power base and to gain respect
from the people.
Medieval Life At The Rock
Clonmacnoise History And Significance
Clonmacnoise Tourist Information
After 1101 the Rock became an important Christian religious
site and all the buildings we see here today date from this period. The fort
might have been dismantled at this stage in order to re-use the stone for the
new buildings, the first one of which was a round tower dating back to 1101.
In 1152, with the approval of Rome, Ireland was to set up
four archbishoprics, at Dublin, Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam. From then on, the
archbishop of Cashel resided at the Rock. During this period the remainder of
the buildings was to be erected, such as the Cathedral (1230-1270), followed by
the tower house castle which was the
archbishops’ residence, and the 15th century Hall Of The Vicar’s
Choral, a place of residence for the choir.
Stone carvings inside Cormac's Chapel and traces of frescoes once painted lavishly with expensive materials are the remnants of the wealth and splendor displayed here during this golden period of Ireland history.
When Cromwell sent
Lord Inchiquin and his men to attack Cashel in 1647, the town did not surrender
as demanded. So, when taking the town, the
Parlamentary army, as they had done and were to do in other towns around the
country, massacred all of the roughly 1,000 residents of Cashel who had sought
refuge in the Cathedral on top of the Rock. As you might imagine, both the town
and the religious site were never the same again after that. The Rock gradually
declined and the cathedral was eventually replaced with a new cathedral built
in the town.
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Thanks! Colm and Susanna
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Copyright 2014 by Colm Sweeney and Susanna Lambeck www.enjoy-irish-culture.com