Spiritual 1

It was just like on the occasion of my first glimpse of the Rock of Cashel in Ireland’s County Tipperary, in 1979, an image still etched in a corner of my brain. It took a while, 30 years in fact, before I could recreate that first impression…

Prior to the Norman invasion in May 1169, the Rock, aka Cashel of the Kings or St. Patrick’s Rock, was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster for hundred of years. It was only fifty years before the invasion that Muirchertach Ua Briain, the then King of Munster, donated his fortress on the rock to the church. To become a site around which many conflicts took place…

Three centuries later, the Irish Confederate Wars, aka the Eleven Years’ War, took place between 1641 and 1653. They were a series of civil wars in Ireland, England and Scotland, during the reign of Charles I. It was a conflict with both political and religious aspects, and was fought over land ownership, governance, religious freedom and discrimination; the main issue being whether Ireland would be a self-governing kingdom under Charles I or subordinate to the parliament in England.

During the wars, Cashel was sacked in 1647 by English Parliamentarian troops under Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin. The entire contingent of Irish Confederate troops holding the site and Catholic clergymen were massacred, and precious religious artefacts were looted or destroyed as iconoclasm took hold. It was the most destructive conflict in Irish history and caused 200,000–600,000 deaths from fighting as well as war-related famine and disease.

Some 100 years later, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel decided to remove the cathedral roof, an act of vandalism on a jewel among Irish church buildings, his decision was criticised before and ever since.

The picturesque complex of buildings still remaining like the Round Tower, Cathedral and Cormac’s Chapel dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, are one of the most remarkable collections of medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe and the rock remains one of the most spectacular sites – and sights –  in Ireland.

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