Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

Location: Cashel, County Tipperary

The Rock of Cashel (Irish Carraig Phádraig), near the town of Cashel, about 20 km north of Cahir in County Tipperary in Ireland, is a unique monument to Irish history.

The mountain rises 65 m high and is considered an Irish landmark. As the seat of fairies and spirits, it was revered in ancient times.

In the 4th century, the clan of the Eoghanachta, later the MacCarthys, conquered the rock and expanded it into a clan seat. This was of strategic importance due to its elevated position, which promised a good overview of the surrounding country.



From the 4th century Caiseal (Old Irish for stone castle) was the seat of the kings of Munster and equal in importance to the other seats of provincial rulers including Tara. Saint Patrick made the fortress a bishopric in the 5th century.

In the early 10th century, Cormac mac Cuileannáin, also known as bishop and teacher, ruled over Munster. He fell in 908 at the Battle of Ballaghmoon, fought between Leinster and Munster. Mahon, of the Dál gCais (Dalcassians) clan, later became King of Munster and took up residence in Cashel. When he died, the Eoghan Night king took possession of the rock, but was then defeated by Mahon's brother, Brian Boru. Brian was made King of Munster at Cashel in 977. Around 1005 he declared himself High King. He died in 1014 fighting the Vikings. His descendants, the O'Brien clan, continued to rule Cashel.

King Muircheartach Ó Briain presented the rock to the Bishop of Limerick in 1101 on the occasion of the first synod in Ireland.

Cormac Mac Carthaigh became first Archbishop of Cashel in 1127 and built Cormac's Chapel in the Irish Romanesque style that same year. Next to the round tower, the small church is the oldest building on the Rock of Cashel. Two master builders from a delegation of monks from Regensburg, which was in close cultural contact with Cashel, were also involved in this.

In 1172, after conquering part of Ireland, Henry II of England visited the castle, where he was paid homage by princes and clergymen. In this way they achieved the independence of the Irish Catholic Church. In the 13th century the construction of the large Gothic cathedral began. The Earl of Kildare set it on fire and had to justify himself to the king. He excused himself by saying that he wanted to kill the Archbishop, whose presence he suspected was in the cathedral.

In the 15th century, the bishop's castle was built on the west side, which was integrated into the church building. The Hall of the Vicars Chorale is now the entrance to the entire complex.

After the death of Archbishop Roland Baron in 1561, competing bishops were appointed by the Pope (Roman Catholic) and by the (English) Crown (Anglican), with the latter coming to power. From 1571 to 1622 Miler Magrath, the 'scoundrel of Cashel', held the title; his tomb with a self-written inscription can be seen in the chancel of the cathedral.

In 1641 the Rock of Cashel became Catholic again in the wake of the Irish Confederate Wars, but as early as 1647, following a siege by the English commander of Cork, Murrough O'Brien, Earl of Inchiquin, it reverted to the Anglican Church. The Confederate troops and Roman Catholic clergy, including Theobald Stapleton, were executed. English troops also looted or destroyed many religious works of art important to Catholics.

However, the Anglican Church abandoned the complex in the 18th century. In 1749 the cathedral was roofed off by Arthur Price, an Anglican bishop of Cashel. As a result, the facility fell into disrepair.



Saint Patrick is said to have made the place a bishopric and baptized King Angus in 450 AD. Legend has it that Patrick accidentally rammed his crosier into Angus' foot during the ceremony, which Angus assumed was a Christian baptismal ritual and endured equanimously. In early medieval times, the Englishman Albert was elected Archbishop of Cashel at the request of the people.

Building on the rock
The oldest and tallest of the Cashel buildings is the very well preserved round tower (28 meters or 90 feet high), believed to date from 1101 (according to another source: 849). The entrance is 3.60 meters (12 feet) above the ground. It has the typical pointed roof of the round towers. The tower was built of stone without mortar. Only recently have joints been filled with mortar for safety reasons.

Cormac's Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaig of Munster, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. The building consists of a central nave and a chancel, whereby the central nave and the chancel are not in one line. There are two towers on either side of the sanctuary. Unlike most Irish Romanesque churches, the church is richly decorated. The abbot of Regensburg sent two of his carpenters to help the work. The two towers on the sides of the transition from nave and choir show their Germanic influence, this form is otherwise unknown in Ireland. Other notable features of the building, both indoors and out, are the portico, a barrel vault, a carved tympanum over both doors, and the magnificent north gate. It contains one of the best preserved Irish frescoes from this period. Extensive restoration work on the chapel was completed in 2017.

The cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270, is a cruciform Gothic church without aisles. A 15th-century tower rises above the crossing. At the same time, a large residential tower was built to the west. You can climb up to the battlements via a spiral staircase and enjoy a wonderful view from there. Next to the church entrance is the old stone on which the Kings of Munster were crowned.

The Hall of the Vicar's Chorale was built by Archbishop O'Hedian in the 15th century. Lay people (sometimes junior canons) were appointed as vicars' choir, who undertook the task of singing in the cathedral during services. In Cashel there were originally eight of these singers, each with their own seal. This was later reduced to five honorary singers, with other singers acting as deputies, a practice that continued until 1836.

The building consists of the hall and the later built dormitory. The upper floor was the vicar's main living quarters.

The restoration of the hall was carried out by the Public Works Office as a project of the preservation of European monuments in 1975. There is a museum on the history of the rock in the rooms, and in the basement stands the badly weathered 12th-century St. Patrick's Cross. It shows a figure of Christ and the figure of a bishop, the cross lacks the otherwise typical ring around the crossing. The small town of Cashel (Caiseal), which arose during the construction of the cathedral, also has attractions including the ruins of the 13th century Hore Abbey at the foot of the cliff. There clergy were trained who went to Regensburg. The Scottish portal of the Church of St. James in Regensburg reminds us of this. The former Dominican settlement of Dominic's Abbey Cashel is also in the immediate vicinity.



The castle served as a filming location for the medieval children's series Mystic Knights. In the series she represents the evil Maeve's castle Temra, the appearance of the castle was digitally reworked. Only the border walls and parts of the main building can be seen in the recordings.


Getting here

By train
Nearest train stops are Cahir and Thurles.

In the street
Cashel is easily accessible by car on the N8 (Cork-Dublin)



Morelli's, 4 Bank Place. Phone: +353 87 774-5641. Open: until 01:00 a.m.
So Juicy, 104 Main St. Tel: +353 86 252-9098. sandwiches Open: 10:00-17:00.
Chez Hans, The Butt of the Rock. Tel: +353 62 61177. French cuisine. Open: 18:00-22:00. Price: €30+.
Indo spice restaurant, Lower Gate St. Tel: +353 62 63801. Indian restaurant. Open: 17:00-11:30.