Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Location: About 18 km southwest of Thurles, 16 km WNW of Tipperary and about 15 km north of Cahir,
Cashel is located at the junction of N 74 and N 8. The Rock of Cashel is on a high
limestone prominence above the town. Follow the signs for the Public Carpark (a fee is charged) which is
at the foot of the Rock. An admission fee is also charged to enter the walls of the complex to view the buildings.
Comments: Technically, this is not a castle or fortress, though it was used as such many times over the
centuries. Oliver Cromwell used it as his headquarters for a time. Indications are that a fortress was built roughly
in the area now occupied by the 13th century cathedral.
History: High above the plains in the south of County Tipperary is the great 4th century fortification of
Cashel - the stone fort. This was the seat of kings and medieval bishops for 900 years which flourished until the early
17th century. There was a settlement here from pre-Christian times though traces of it have long since vanished.
The original forbidding fortification of the Eoghanachta, kings of Munster, saw the struggle for dominance of
Munster kings over the whole of Ireland. Brian Ború was crowned King of Munster here in 977 and he became High King
of Ireland in 1002. He was the first high king to exact universal and effective tribute from the other kings of Ireland.
Within the history of the 'Rock' is an impressive ecclesiastical connection which spans the Middle Ages.
In the 5th century St Patrick converted Aenghus, the king of the time, and made Cashel a bishopric.
In 1101 Muircheartach O'Brien granted the Rock to the Church in a brilliant political move (as it effectively deprived
his enemies, the Eoganacht, of their ancient royal seat) and in 1127, bishop Cormac MacCarthy started work on a Chapel
which survives to this day as a remarkable Romanesque church.
A round tower was added about this same time frame. The largest building on the Rock is the 13th century cathedral.
The complex represents the most impressive medieval collection of buildings in Ireland.
Other Items of Interest: Crowning the top of the Rock in addition to this church/fortress are an early round
tower, Cormac's Chapel, Vicar's Choral which houses the museum and sports a fine sheela-na-gig on a southeast
quoin, Scully's Cross and the Cross of St. Patrick.