The Rock of Cashel

17 Apr
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The ancient round tower that still exists today.

There are numerous ruins, most of which are fortresses, which line the coast and fill the interior of Ireland. These fortresses have been necessary in Ireland’s history to seek out intruding clans in order to protect the inhabitants. However, one of the most celebrated and visited ruins in Ireland is not an old fortress or watchtower.  Rather, located in county Tipperary, the Rock of Cashel is a site of extraordinary ruins from an ancient Celtic cathedral. The Celtic cathedral literally sits on top of a giant rock that a legend tells us was thrown by Satan when Saint Patrick banished him from a cave. Prior to becoming a cathedral, this rock was the home to the kings of Munster until Muirchertach O Brian, the king in 1101, gave the rock to the church. In the 12th century, the rock was no longer a stronghold of kings but a stronghold of the Christian faith.

 Construction began and soon the rock was developed into a major religious centre. The first development on the site was a round tower, which still stands today. During the 12th century, people throughout Ireland were experiencing a time of great disparity. In turn, everyone turned to the church for guidance. At first, in 1111, the Rock of Cashel was the residence for the archbishop Rick. Rick’s first order was to establish a Cistercian monk site at the base of the rock. During this time, the original cathedral was built in the place where the present cathedral stands as a place for all people to worship and receive peace. 

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The magnificent Rock of Cashel

However, the church and the happiness did not last long. In August of 1348, the black plague struck county Tipperary and brought horror all around. Between one-third to one-half of the entire population in Ireland died during this time. Since the country was in rough despair, building started falling into decay. Furthermore, by the 16th century many lords began building their own houses and the castle-like structure of the Rock of Cashel became undesirable toImage the archbishop. The archbishop at the time built himself a palace, abandoned his residence at the Rock of Cashel and the site began to fall into ruins.

 

By the end of the Middle Ages, the Rock of Cashel was still used as a holy place for mass,but it became to difficult to maintain and the structure continued to decay. Today, the Rock of Cashel is still remembered as a stronghold of the Christian faith. Numerous people flock to county Tipperary to visit this beautiful structure every year, the queen of England even requested to visit the Rock of Cashel on her most recent trip to Ireland! I had the pleasure of visiting this ancient cathedral recently and I was stunned by its size. Throughout my time in Ireland, I have visited and seen numerous fortresses, but this was the largest stone monument I have been to. It was so peaceful walking around the grounds of such an old cathedral wondering what life could have been like hundreds of years ago.

 

 

 

Sacred Destinations (2013) Rock of Cashel Accessed April 2013, http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel

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