Sunset falling over the Rock of Cashel, just like my first glimpse of it back in 1979 and still etched in one creative corner of my brain. It took a while, 30 years, before I could recreate that first impression. The Rock, also known as Cashel of the Kings or St. Patrick’s Rock, in County Tipperary, Ireland, was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion in May 1169. ..
Fifty years earlier the then King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the rock to the church, since when the picturesque complex has become one of the most remarkable collections of medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. History has left its mark on the rock however, and few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings like the round tower, cathedral and Cormac’s Chapel date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Irish Confederate Wars, aka the Eleven Years’ War, that took place between 1641 and 1653, were a series of civil wars in Ireland, England and Scotland – all ruled by Charles I. The conflict had political and religious aspects and was fought over governance, land ownership, religious freedom and discrimination. The main issues were whether Ireland would be a self-governing kingdom under Charles I or subordinate to the parliament in England. 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.
During the wars, Cashel was sacked in 1647 by English Parliamentarian troops under Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin. Irish Confederate troops holding the site and Catholic clergymen were all massacred and precious religious artefacts were looted or destroyed by troops as iconoclasm took hold. Some 100 years later, the Anglican Archbishop of Cashel decided to remove the roof on what had been called the jewel among Irish church buildings, a decision criticised before and ever since.
The rock remains one of the most spectacular sites – and sights – in Ireland.