King John's Castle

King John's Castle



Location: Limerick Map

Constructed: 1197- 1200


King John's Castle is a massive medieval fortress on the banks of river Shannon in a city of Limerick, Limerick County in Ireland. King John's Castle was constructed in 1197- 1200.


The first stable bastion on the "King's Island" is due to the Viking king Thormodr Helgason, who built a base here in 922 to be able to dominate the entire extension of the Shannon River from Lough Derg to Lough Ree, attacking religious settlements. In 937, the Vikings established in Limerick faced the Dublin at Lough Ree, and were defeated by them. In 943 they were again defeated when the head of the local clan joined Ceallachan, King of Munster, and the Vikings of Limerick were forced to pay tribute. The power of the Vikings never recovered, and they were reduced to a smaller clan, yet they played an important role in some of the endless power struggles that shook Ireland during the later centuries.

The arrival of the Normans in the area in 1172 completely changed the situation. Domhnall Mor O'brien completely destroyed the city in 1174, in an attempt to prevent it from falling into the hands of the new invaders. The Normans finally captured this area under John I of England, Lord of Ireland. In 1197, Limerick was believed to have received his first fueros and his first mayor, Adam Sarvant. At this time, the construction of a castle under the orders of King John began, which was completed around 1200.

During this period of peace imposed by Norman rule, Limerick prospered as a port and as a shopping mall. The city had been divided into two zones: the one that was known as the "English town" English Town), in the "Isla del Rey" (King's Island), and the "irish city" (Irish Town), on the south bank of the river. The castle had a more administrative than military function at the time, including coin minting.


The castle, especially its outer walls, was severely damaged during the siege of Limerick which took place in 1642, and which was only the first of the five sites the city suffered in the 17th century. In 1642, the castle was occupied by Protestants fleeing the Irish Rebellion of 1641, and was surrounded by an Irish Confederate force commanded by Garret Barry. Since Barry had no heavy artillery, he decided to mine the castle walls by digging under its foundations. The occupants of the castle surrendered when Barry was on the verge of achieving the collapse of the walls. In fact, the damage to its foundations was so severe that part of the outer wall had to be demolished later.

The castle lived its last site in 1691, during the war between Jacobites and Wilhelmists (supporters of William III of England), which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick. Between 1791 and 1922, the castle housed a military barracks in which more than four hundred soldiers of the British Army lived. In later times, due to the housing shortage in Limerick, houses were built inside, which were later eliminated.

Today, the castle has been equipped as a tourist attraction, with a visitor center where dramatizations and exhibitions about the history of the castle are offered.