Tag Archives: church

The Rock of Cashel, Ireland

From  my fall 2007 trip to Ireland.
It’s a long way to Tipperary but if you go to Cashel, then you have in fact made it. Cashel (with the accent on the first syllable) was a lovely town (I’ve now officially lost track of the days). It’s small, a mix of medieval and modern and winds slowly up to the mound where the Rock of Cashel is. The castle was built at the highest point. It’s suffered some weather damage over the years from wind (parts blown down, such as the high cross and some crenellations) and rain. The castle is a sprawling place, containing several buildings, and cold. It was a windy enough day there but we could see from all sides, overlooking the town.
I didn’t do as well a job of editing these photos so there are a lot of pictures of fresco details and pillars.

The oldest part of Cashel is more than a thousand years old. We did the site tour , which had a very entertaining guy who gave great insights into the place’s very long history. Viewing over the cemetery, the distant hills show a dip. The tale goes that one day the devil was walking along, in a foul mood and took a big bite out of the hills. That dip is called the Devil’s Bite and when the devil spit out the chomp he took, it made the Rock of Cashel.
 
The oldest part was probably the tower as these are evident in all of the oldest monasteries (as lookouts for the Vikings). Then there was a smallish chapel, made I believe of limestone as that is the composition of the mount as well. The walls and ceiling had been painted in frescoes. Some of the design is still visible with red, blue, yellow and white colors. That was amazing to see, and religious figures and diapering designs were still discernible. This chapel was also unique in its crookedness. When looking through the arched entry it was obvious that it wasn’t in the center of that wall, nor was the arch geometrically even. I bet it was built by unskilled monks and laborers with no architect or only directions passed down the line from one guy to another.
 
There are the little sculpted heads there were also on the Dysert O’Dea doorway. The remains of a broken stone casket was inside. The front has and Urnes style beast on it, which helps date this part of Cashel to 900-1000 CE. Urnes style resembles the famous carved stave churches of Norway, indicating the influence of the time.
 
Ireland is working hard to preserve its heritage and history. Many of the castles are owned by county or country tourism. It’s a long and expensive process but there was evidence of work on Cashel, especially in spots that needed to preserve the building’s integrity.

Brian Boru, and his grandson were some of the early Munster kings that ruled from here. But his grandson gave the castle over to the Bishop of Limerick. This began the long ecclesiastical history of the castle. There was an enclosed museum, which had some religious artifacts, pennannular brooches, and stonework that had been moved in to preserve them.

Another chapel (I don’t know the actual religious names for these different buildings) was redone with a wooden roof (no nails) and plant made pigments painted on the gothic arches and angels that decorated the room. Most castles and churches had wooden roofs as the technique for making the corbelled (or other) stone roofs was complicated and put a lot of weight on the walls. Throughout these buildings there are many square holes in the walls. These are post holes, for floors and stairs. It makes one realize how drafty these stone places would have been.

The town itself was fairly small and we were hardpressed to find a place to eat that night, but ate at the Town Hall, a higher end and very good restaurant. It is so named because it is in the old town hall. We’d had a drink in one of local pub earlier and many of the pubs in this area of Ireland have little hearths and some that burn coal still. We spent several hours at Cashel and then moved on to Limerick.

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Dysert O’Dea, Ireland

We accidentally found Dysert O’Dea (pronounced O’Day) as we left the Burren, in county Clare. Dysert O’Dea was in the guidebook as having this wonderful doorway. But it was at the end of the day and Oct. so as we drove up to this rather small castle, we knew it was closed. There was a guy sitting in a Hummer like truck parked at the front of the castle, built in 1480. He was nice enough to move out of the way so we could take pictures.

Then he told us where the high cross and church were that we might very well have missed if we’d driven out. We drove to a cattle gate and pulled to the side of the road. This was a real farm road so in some ways it was much bigger than the hedge and stone wall encroached main roads.

Ireland 2007–Dysert O’Dea

The castle was newer than the church which was newer than St. Tola’s high cross and the ruins of the tower, which were from the 12th century. The cross holds an carving of Christ and of a bishop (St. Tola) who founded the monastery centuries before, I believe.The doorway was in good shape and very cool with all the faces. Each one was different and some human, others animals. There was a whimsical simplicity to it, and an individuality that made me think some of those faces represent particular people of the time.

I’m not sure if we were in the Burren anymore or just out of it but there was such a distortion of time for us looking at the maps. A map of all of BC and a map of Ireland are the same size on paper. But a one-inch distance on a BC map could be 2 hours of driving, whereas on the Irish map it’s probably 15 minutes.

Which means we managed to go from Carrowmore in the rainy morning, to Dunguaire, Kinvara, Ailwee Caves, Poulnabrone, Burren, Carran Church, Dysert O’Dea castle and church all in one day. We were getting into the very tail of the day. We rarely stopped for lunch. After Dysert O’Dea we drove to the town of Ennis and found a place for the evening.

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Hill of Tara and Trim Castle

Written on Oct. 22/07 from my trip to Ireland.
This is all still part of our very busy Saturday. After we left Newgrange we trotted up to the Hill of Tara. At one point, at a four-way intersection there were two signs at right angles, both saying Tara. Ah those funny Irish. Turns out one was for the town and one for the Hill. Hard to tell though I think we found the “brown” heritage/tourist sign at one point. Not that it pointed the right way either.

After stopping at a gas station (let me guess, said the owner, you’re lost and looking for the Hill of Tara–only about 100 people have come by) we found our way. The Hill of Tara is…well, a hill, a great big, luscious green hill, with a mound or two, with runnels around it. It’s a hill (Cormac’s House), a hill fort, a passage tomb (mound of the hostages) and numerous other things. I don’t think we saw all of it as it was a murky wet day and wet grass makes things soggy. The Stone of Destiny shown in some of the pictures was supposedly moved in 1798 to commemorate the death of 400 Irishmen who fought the British. It was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland from the 6-12th centuries and the stone was said to cry out when the true king touched it. (I wonder how they worked that miracle).

There is a little cemetery and church dating back only a couple of hundred years I believe. Or at least the stones we could see. But the age of the Hill of Tara goes back to neolithic times with other parts being of Roman and medieval times. Its significance is still great in Ireland. But there is danger of a motorway being put through this historic hill and a petition is being circulated to stop the motorway from destroying it.

We went on to Trim castle which was founded by Hugh de Lacy in the 12th century. Its more recent claim to fame is that it was used in filming Braveheart. But the ruins are quite fabulous. We hit it at the end of the day and didn’t get the tour of the inside of the castle. I believe it’s only a ruin though, no furniture. The tour would have consisted of talking about its different defenses and construction techniques as the tower has twenty sides.

There was a lovely little wedding going one with the men in coats and tails. Yeah, if I ever got married a castle would definitely be a great setting. We didn’t really stick around in Trim, the town, but drove through to an abbey, shown in the next set.

Ireland 2007–Hill of Tara & Trim Castle

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