The sky seems to be clearer as we approach Cashel. A few kilometres from the town, we stop to gaze at the vestiges of the fortress.
We arrive to Cashel under a blue sky and with some sun, nevertheless the wind is quite cold. A guide will explain to us the story of Rock of Cashel.
Here, lived the Kings of Munster from 370 to 1101 before the Rock was given to the Church. In 1647, Cromwell’s army laid siege to the fortress and killed its 3000 inhabitants. The abbey was deserted during the XVIIIth. It was listed as a place of historic interest in 1880.
When we penetrate within the fortress, we discover a part of the churchyard (which is always used nowadays). In front ofus there is St Patrick’s cross. Sculpted during the XIIth in one piece, it’s a replica. The original is in the crypt. There are several legends about St Patrick and the Rock. One of them: in 450, St Patrick christened Aengus, one of the kings of Munster. During the ceremony, clumsily, he stuck his crook in the foot of the king who did’nt react because he thought it was a part of the ceremonial. Another legend says you’ll be married in the year if you can encircle St Patrick’s cross with your arms.
But let’s go back to the fortress. We enter in Cormac’s chapel (XIIth). This chapel (romanesque style) is typical of the irish architecture with it’s inclined stone roof. A lot of sculputres decorate the tympanum of the north door. One of them represents a lion (something quite rare inIreland) but to be honest, you need to cudgel your brains to recognize the animals… Some of the paintings have been restored and help you to imagine how it should have been beutiful when it was all coloured.
In one part of the cimetary, you can see O’Scully’s monument, a memorial from 1870 which was damaged during a tempest in 1976 and lost its top.
The rounded tower (28 m. high) is the oldest building of the rock. It allowed to see assailants a long way away and made a perfect refuge for the monks during the assaults. Like all such towers in Ireland, the access door was high (3 m.) and one had to use one ladder to enter and use the same ladder to reach the different floors. The ingenious system was great to prevent enemies from entering. Nevertheless, with the passing days, theyr realized they could force the monks to go out if they filled the tower with smoke.
From the Rock, we see the ruins of Hore Abbey, in the plain, a XIIIth cistercian abbey.
Then, we enter in the gothic cathedral (XIIIth). This big monument, today in the open air, was built on a cruciform plan and has a charasteristic of the epoch: ranks of windows places highly. Its walls, very thick, hid secret crossings allowing to walk all around the building. The cathedral shelters several tombs, one of them is Miler Magrath’s (XVIIIth) who created a scandal because he was both a catholic and a protestant archbishop.
We end by the Hall of the Vicar’s choral and the dormitory (XVth). The hall is decorated with colourful medieval patterns and stained glass windows. A large tapestry (XVIIth) representing the encounter of king Salomon and queen of Sheba, decorates one of the walls. Our guide asks us to find the mistakes on the tapestry. Actually there are many: some people don’t have enough fingers, some have too much, some are too muscular… She explains that the mistakes were intentionnally made to emphasize the fact that God only makes perfect things.
About the town of Cashel, a small street at the foot of the rock shows us some lovely fronts and a sculpture representing irish arts: music and dance.
To be continued…