In the 18th century, Kilkenny City Center’s stylish Georgian Town Houses were the favored headquarters of Ireland’s country aristocracy. The city is also billed as “Ireland’s Medieval Capital”, and contains several lovely old buildings from the era, including Kilkenny Castle, situated on the River Nore. The city center itself was built upon the base of a 900 year old Norman Citadel.
The name Kilkenny is derived from Kil Cainneach, or Church of Canice, a sixth century saint who founded a monastic school in the area. The community expanded, and 400 years later, the Anglo Normans built a gate, the castle, and a fortified wall. In 1366, the statutes of Kilkenny worsened Anglo-Irish relations by making it illegal for Irish and Anglo-Normans to marry, and imposing the death penalty on those who disregarded the law.
1642-48 brought the Confederation of Kilkenny, an attempt at self-government by the Irish Catholics that Pope Innocent X supported with arms and money. It was not successful, and Cromwell had St, Canice’s Cathedral sacked in 1650 and used it as a stable for his horses. Hostile forces overran the town as well. Other notable historic events in Kilkenny City included the revolt of United Irishmen in 1798 and a visit by King Edward VII in 1904. During the Irish Civil War in 1923, forces that opposed peace dealings with the British occupied Kilkenny Castle for a brief time.
Any discussion of Kilkenny City is incomplete without mentioning the sport of hurling, the areas most popular sport. Hurling is a Celtic sport played with curved sticks. It is described as a more intense form of field hockey, and skillful players require excellent hand-eye coordination, speed, and the ability to bounce a ball about the size of a golf ball on a hurling stick, called a caman. Hurling is considered the worlds fastest team sport and is popular almost to the point of obsession in this part of Ireland. The Kilkenny Cats are known as the best team in the country, and face stiff competition from Tipperary, Wexford, and Waterford Counties. The Cats have won three of 5 recent championships.
Conversations during the months of June and July are often entirely consumed by interest in the results the All Ireland Championship. Today, Kilkenny City is a popular haven for craftspeople and artisans who make and sell their wares, which include fine ceramics and sweaters. The city is also known for its many fine Victorian era pubs, popular live music venues, and the enjoyably scenic Riverfront Canal Walk that winds around the Castle.