Saturday, August 10, 2013

July 29: Rock of Cashel

We decided to get an early start so we could stop at Cashel.  We programmed Greta and headed for the road to Dublin.  Apparently Greta's maps had not been updated since the recent road construction  and before we knew it we were driving down narrow streets in the residential area of Cork.  We finally stopped and asked directions and then, with fingers crossed, attempted to find some signs that would help us on our way.  We eventually got straightened around and we were heading in the right direction!!
Oops! Going the wrong way!!

Rock of Cashel is a historical site also known as the Cashel of the Kings.  We arrived just in time for the guided tour. The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman Invasion.  In 1101, the King of Munster,  donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church.  There is also a legend that St. Patrick came to the Rock and baptized one of the kings.
The buildings on the Rock

The first stop on our tour was Cormac's Chapel.  Construction began in 1127 and the chapel was consecrated in 1134.  The Irish Abbot of Regensberg sent two of his carpenters to help in the work and the chapel is similar in design to  St. James Abbey in Regensberg.  The Chapel contains one of the best preserved Irish frescoes from this time period. The Chapel was constructed primarily of sandstone which has become water logged over the centuries, significantly damaging the interior frescos. Restoration and preservation required the chapel be completely enclosed in a rain-proof structure with interior dehumidifiers to dry out the stone.  This is an ongoing project.

Restoration in progress
The Cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270, also included the residence of the Archbishop.  It was known as the Saint Patrick Cathedral. The cross-shaped cathedral has no aisle.  The most stunning features are the transepts, each with three beautiful lancet windows. Each transept is attached with two chapels at either side. 
A view of the tower from the Cathedral

From the back of the Cathedral

Beautiful windows

The Archbishop's residence
St. Patrick's Cross

The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved  round tower, dating from 1100. Its entrance is 12 feet from the ground.   The tower has been closed off and visitors are not allowed to enter the round tower.
The tower and high cross
The door to the tower

We also visited the “Hall of The Vicars Choral,” as it’s known, the home to the choir in medieval times. It was built in the fifteenth century. The vicors choral were laymen appointed to assist in chanting the cathedral services. The building has been restored using the same methods that were used in the original building.  Furnishings have been added and there are beautiful examples of tapestries hanging on the wall.
The entire plateau on which the buildings and graveyard lie is walled. In the grounds around the buildings an extensive graveyard includes a number of high crosses.  Scully's Cross, one of the largest and most famous high crosses here, originally constructed in 1867 to commemorate the Scully family, was destroyed in 1976 when lightning struck a metal rod that ran the length of the cross. The remains of the top of the cross now lie at the base of the cross adjacent to the rock wall.
High crosses

Scully's high cross

The top of the cross after the lightening storm of 1976

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and made the tour very enjoyable, adding interesting stories and historical anecdotes.  
Our tour guide
Following the tour we went for a drive around Cashel and found Bailey's Hotel.  If we are ever back this way we will have to make a point of staying there.  
Baileys Hotel

Bailey's in Cashel
We continued on to Dublin and dropped off the rental car at the airport.  We took a shuttle bus to downtown Dublin and then walked to The Belvedere, where we will be staying for the next three days.

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