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Friday, 20 March 2015

The Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is a group of mediaeval buildings situated in the Golden Vale of Tipperary. The site was built on top of a large outcrop, and dominates the horizon for miles around.

The Rock was originally the seat of the Kings of Munster before the Norman invasion. The location was donated to the church by Muircheartach Ua Briain, the King of Munster in 1101 and a great-grandson of Brian Boru. None of the buildings from this time survive, just the more modern religious buildings.

The Rock of Cashel, 1957
On the Rock today, you will find the ruins of a 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, a 13th century Gothic cathedral, a 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. The buildings feature notable architectural details, such as the twin towers on each side of the nave and chancel that are Germanic influences not found on any other buildings of the time period. The round tower is very well maintained, and the graveyard on the ground contains several high crosses. The cathedral also holds some beautiful frescoes dating from mediaeval times.

For some reason, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel in 1749, Arthur Price, decided to take the roof off the cathedral. The site fell into ruin, and is now totally dedicated as a tourist site.

The Rock in 1962 
According to legend, the Rock was formed when St Patrick drove the devil from a mountain nearby. Satan was furious, but because he was unable to strike any harm against St Patrick, he bit a chunk out of the mountain top in frustration and spat it out at Cashel. The mountain is now called the Devil’s Bit.

The main highway from Dublin to Cork used to swing right by the side of the Rock of Cashel, with space provided on the side for people to pull up and take photographs without obstructing the traffic. However, on the new motorway, it is possible to drive right past Cashel without catching a glimpse of the Rock. Travelling time from Cork to Dublin, and on to Belfast, has been drastically reduced, thanks to all the towns that have been bypassed, but this efficiency comes at the loss of beautiful sights like the Rock of Cashel rising up on the horizon.