ROCK OF CASHEL
Petit Futé's opinion on ROCK OF CASHEL
This is a must-see in Ireland. Overlooking the beautiful Golden Vale, the Rock of Cashel has a fascinating and terrible history. It is a mythical rock fortified by the kings of Munster and was their residence from the 4th to the 12th century when King Muircheartach O'Brien donated it to the Church. According to legend, St. Patrick baptized King Aengus here in 448 and, during the ceremony, clumsily stuck his crook in his foot. Thinking it was part of the ritual, the king did not breathe a word! The Rock of Cashel, the cradle of Celtic symbolism and a place of legend, is one of the most visited historical sites in the country.
Undercroft. The visit can start with this museum in the basement where the original cross of Saint Patrick (12th century) is exposed (the one outside is a copy). It is, unfortunately, rather damaged and presents only a half-crucifixion (it misses the head and the right arm). The second vertical bar, linked to the cross, certainly represents the cross of the thieves crucified with Christ. This cross of St. Patrick rests on a stone which, it is said, was the coronation stone of kings.
Next to the signature of Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Cashel in 2011, one should not forget to look at Evil Eye Stone, a strange sculpture with crazy eyes that is found elsewhere in Ireland.
Vicar's Choral. Let's continue our discovery of the Rock of Cashel with the great "Vicar's Choral Hall", built in 1420 for the choristers of Cashel Cathedral. This was a privileged group of all-male choir members who were appointed to accompany the parish priests in their religious chants. This room houses several objects discovered during the excavations.
Cathedral. Built in the 13th century, the cathedral with its cruciform plan and Gothic style is impressive to visit, despite its dilapidated state. One of the transepts is being restored. In the south transept is exposed a mural painting of crucifixion, discovered in 2003, one of the rare examples of the kind preserved in Ireland.
Round Tower. Outside the cathedral, in the churchyard, one can admire the 12th century round tower, 28 meters high. The tower is superbly preserved and it breaks a little the square order of the whole.
Cormac's Chapel. Without a doubt, Cormac's Chapel is a little wonder. Considered as the oldest Romanesque church in Ireland still standing (1127-1134), it was built by Cormac MacCarthy, King and Prince-Bishop of Cashel. The vault of the chapel is populated with heads and gules of animals, in a style extremely close to that of Dysert O'Dea Castle, in County Clare (did the same artists work there? Possible).
The 800 year old frescoes in the choir, the oldest of their kind in Ireland, are being carefully restored. You will certainly distinguish some remnants of colors, very dear at the time, including the light blue that would come from Venice. The pillars are made of geometrical patterns, typical of the Irish Romanesque, and without any apparent order: lozenges, stars, broken lines... In front of the choir, a magnificent sculpted tomb could be the tomb of King Cormac himself. Take a closer look: the delicate ornaments representing animals and intertwined snakes would be Viking style.
Opening time and information on ROCK OF CASHEL
From mid-September to mid-Oct and from mid-March to May, daily 9am-5.30pm, from mid-Oct to mid-March 9am-5.30pm, from June to mid-September 9am-7pm.