THE ROCK OF CASHEL
Some things never change.
This was underlined last week by our feisty guide for a tour of the Rock of Cashel. She told us about Miler McGrath, a bishop and a politician and a notorious character. The Vatican appointed him Bishop of Down and Connor but, in 1567, he was appointed the Protestant Archbishop of Cashel. Apparently, he held the dual appointment for nine years! He also served as an MP.
And then there was the choir, the Vicars Choral. Not your innocent boys but fully grown men, some of whom had wives and families in the town. The position was much sought after due to the financial rewards. One of the perks was a seal with which the choir member stamped the bill for the shop-keeper who was later reimbursed by the Archbishop. But greed set in and duplicate seals were made and overused by family members and eventually the seals were withdrawn.
Cashel was a centre of power long before the current buildings appeared on the horizon. Brian Boru, king of Munster and later of Ireland, was strongly associated with Cashel in the 10th and 11th centuries and then Cormac McCarthy, the King of Desmond, erected Cormac's chapel in the 12th century.
Cormac’s Chapel is a gem and one of the highlights of a visit to the Rock. The 12th century Romanesque chapel is being renovated and not always open to the public but we were lucky last week and enjoyed our tour.
The 12th century round tower is the oldest surviving building of the cluster. It was once free standing but is now secured to the 13th century cathedral which is not much more than a shell but quite an impressive one.
Treasures include the original 12th century St Patrick’s Cross which has been brought indoors to the museum the better to preserve it. And then there are the astonishing wall paintings which are being painstakingly restored.
It is a fantastic visit, very impressive. I’d advise you to go under the wing of your guide at first and then, well informed, you’ll be free to wander around and explore on your own after that. Parking is quite close and costs 4 euro. There are fairly basic, fairly clean toilets at the car park but they would seem inadequate for an attraction that draws so many people.