Friday, November 1, 2013

Rock of Cashel Part I, Ireland

Here's a special All Saints' Day treat--a major religious center in Ireland. This monastery will cover today's holy day and this Sunday, two posts. Yes, it's that big!

One of the most amazing sites in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel. Originally the seat of the southern kings of Ireland in the 4th and 5th centuries, they gave it over to the church (according to legend, given to St. Patrick) to become a holy place. A monastery was built there, including a cathedral and a bishop's residence. It remained a religious center until Cromwell's forces sacked it in 1647. It fell into ruin, especially after Protestant archbishop Price took the roof out to build his own church. It is now run by the local civil authorities and is a popular site for tourists.

Rock of Cashel

We walked up from the nearby parking lot and were impressed.

Road leading up to the Rock

The first part of the Rock we saw was the home of the canons of the cathedral. The canons were eight men chosen to sing the Divine Office in the cathedral. They lived in a fairly nice home next to the cathedral with a fair size kitchen and an immense dining hall.


Dining hall fireplace

"The Seale of the Colledge of St. Patrikes Cashell"

Wall decor, including the Madonna and child

Amazing roof

This room also held some models, though they were not of the Rock of Cashel itself, but of standard support buildings that monasteries would have.

Sample period buildings--beehive-shape house, stone building, cottage

From here, our tour guide took us to Cormac Mac Carthaig chapel which was currently under restoration. The roof is made of stone and the rain has been seeping through for about a thousand years. They want to fix the damage and provide some waterproofing.

Ceiling of Cormac's Chapel

The sanctuary in the chapel is small and was ornate. Time  and human efforts have made it less spectacular.

Cromac's chapel sanctuary

Faces on the ceiling

The original frescoes were painted over with white wash (a mixture of limestone and water) that made everything white. Efforts to reveal the frescoes are ongoing.

Interior fresco

Exterior fresco

The sanctuary also has an ancient sarcophagus. It is not so ancient to predate the Christian era, but does have a rather interestingly intertwined pair of figures on it. The snakes or dragons curve back and forth and make a figure eight on its side, or the symbol for infinity, indicating the immortality of the person whose mortal remains were put inside. They don't know whose tomb it was.

Our guide points out the figures on the sarcophagus

Tomorrow will be part two of our visit!

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