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History of Cashel Castle

As a legend says, the Rock of Cashel was formed when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave in a mountain located within 30 km of Cashel. The furious demon bit off «a piece» of the mountain but he had to spit it out because of his broken tooth – this was how a mysterious limestone hill appeared in the flatland of Tipperary…

However, this is only a legend. On the other hand, historic data says that a settlement was established on the rock a long time before St. Patrick arrived in these lands, as he lived in the 5th century. As early as in the 4th century, Corc Mac Lors from the Eóganacht family constructed a stronghold here, over time it was called Cashel, which in a Gaelic dialect means «a stone», «a ringfort». Later on, the kings of Munster, who ruled the biggest Irish province, took over the castle and the Cashel settlement.

St. Patrick was spreading Christianity in Ireland in the mid-5th century. He visited the Rock of Cashel in about 450. At that time a christening of a king of Munster was held there – Óengus mac Nad Froích, who was of great importance for the further spreading of Christian faith in these lands. The stronghold on the Rock of Cashel was the seat of the kings of Munster for several centuries, until the Norman invasion. As a result, the rock was given a nickname «the mountain of the kings». In 964 a coronation of the High Kingship of Ireland, Brian Boru, (Irish Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig,) took place there.

At the beginning of the 12th century a great-grandson of Brian Boru, King Muirchertach Ua Briain, after taking the throne, gave the castle on the Rock of Cashel to the Church of Ireland as a gift. As a result, this place was very quickly transformed into a religious centre of the kingdom. From that period until today, the 28-metre-high round tower has survived. The entrance to the tower is 3.5 m above the ground. It does not mean at all that giants lived in Ireland in those ancient times. So highly placed, such an entrance is typical for the round towers from that period and conditioned by the relatively small, not exceeding one metre, foundations.

In 1127 the King-Bishop of Cashel, Cormac McCarthy, gave an order to build a chapel, which today is called after him, on the castle premises. The Rock of Cashel had been the official seat of the bishops since 1152, thus a range of facilities was built there later. In 1169, at the time of Donal O’Brian, construction of a huge Cathedral began, which lasted for several decades. This majestic building was not finished and consecrated until 1234, and then it had been the highest religious building in Ireland for long years.

The times of Irish Confederate Wars that took place in 1647 were the bloodiest and the saddest part of history of the Rock of Cashel. Then both the city and the castle were invaded by the troops of the members of parliament under Count Murray O’Brian. The stronghold and Irish churches were plundered, many priests were murdered, including Theobald Stapleton, who was the first to publish a Roman-Catholic book in Irish. However, the most tragic event took place behind the walls of the Cathedral, where about three thousand inhabitants of Cashel as well as the defenders of the stronghold took shelter from the enemy. In the culminating point of the battle a fire broke out and most of the people who were there were simply burnt alive.

After that event, the Rock of Cashel lost its former splendour, however, this place remained in memory for long as a symbol of bravery and rebellion against English rule. In 1749 the roof of the Cathedral was removed at the request of an English archbishop of Cashel, Arthur Price. After disfiguring the pearl of the Irish Church, the Rock of Cashel had been lying in ruins for a long time until it aroused interest among historians and tourists again. Currently, it is being actively renovated and at the same time open to public. History-related theatre events, various concerts and master-classes are very frequently held on the premises of this historic castle.