Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rock of Cashel, Part II, Ireland

Continuing from Friday's post on the Rock of Cashel...

Back outside, we saw a copy of the Cross of St. Patrick. On the front was the figure of Jesus crucified, facing out over the countryside. On the back is a monk preaching with his arms upraised. The arms of the cross have fallen off and the weather has worn it down quite a bit, so little is visible today. A copy stands outside and the original in the museum on site.

Copy of the Cross of St. Patrick front side

Copy of the Cross of St. Patrick back side

The original Cross of St. Patrick sheltered from the elements

We then looked at the remains of the bishop's residence, which was built onto the cathedral, providing easy access for him and his guests. It has fallen into disrepair quite literally, as large chunks of the structure have fallen down during various storms.

Bishop's Residence on left, cathedral on right

What they call an "open floor plan"

The door from the bishop's residence into the church

The cathedral of St. Patrick is wondrously large and spacious but was also a victim of the Protestant Reformation. Cromwell's armies sacked the Rock in 1647 and about one hundred years later a Protestant bishop removed the roof to build his own cathedral.

Tower connecting the residence and the cathedral

Cathedral under repair

Nave and sanctuary (and a different tower outside!)

Walking around the buildings, we could see various views, including a nearby Cistercian Abbey (also in ruins), the town of Cashel, and not really visible in the distance is the Devil's Bite. Legend has it that the Devil was chasing an enemy and he bit off a large chunk of stone. When he came to Cashel, he spit it out and that stone now makes the Rock of Cashel.

Hore Abbey, Cashel

Town of Cashel

No, the Devil's Bite isn't really visible

The church also has a graveyard which is still in use. About 100 years ago, the government agency in charge of the site wanted to prevent any further burials. Some families protested and they all finally came to an agreement. The families, i.e. the parents and their children, were put into a register and had permission to be buried at the Rock of Cashel. Grandchildren were out of luck. January of 2013 was the most recent interment. The guide said that he thinks only two or three people are still left on the register who haven't been buried.


Family vault on the edge of the cemetery

Cemetery with the cathedral and the round tower

The round tower in the last picture is interesting. It is a common feature near medieval and ancient monasteries in Ireland. The tower was built for the monk's defense. If Vikings or Saxons were raiding, the monks would flee to the tower which was only accessible by a door several feet off the ground. They'd use a ladder to ascend and would then pull the ladder in. Food and other essentials were stored inside so they could live for a while. Sometimes the plan wouldn't work if the raiders were able to burn the tower. Usually it was safe enough.

Our last stop was the undercroft museum where the original St. Patrick Cross is kept. In addition, other artifacts from here and other monasteries are kept, including sacred vessels and some nice carvings.

Sacred vessels

Luke and Mark represented as a cow and a lion

Matthew and John represented as a man and an eagle

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