The Rock of Cashel, Tipperary
You round a 21st century bend on the main Dublin-Cork road and you are
transported back 1,500 years.
There, standing proud on the plains, is the great 4th century
fortification of Cashel - the stone fort. This was the seat of kings
and mediaeval bishops for 900 years and flourished until the early
17th century. Indeed there was a settlement here from pre-Christian
times, traces of which have long since vanished.
The original forbidding fortification of the Eoghanachta, kings of
Munster, witnessed 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
Interwoven into the turbulent history of the 'Rock' is an impressive
ecclesiastical fabric 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 and in 1127, the bishop Cormac MacCarthy, started work on a
Chapel which survives to this day and is the most remarkable
Romanesque church in the country. A round tower was added about this
time. The largest building on the Rock is the 13th century cathedral
and all in all the complex represents the most impressive mediaeval
collection of buildings in Ireland.
The great monument in stone has seen war and peace, scholarship and
devotion over a millennium and a half. It is fitting, therefore, that
once again, the great traditions of learning and art which kept the
flame of scholarship alight in a Europe dimmed by the Dark Ages,
should have an echo at Cashel today.