The word Cashel is derived from a Gaelic word meaning “fortress” and it’s not hard to see why.
The Rock of Cashel lays claim, with much justification, to the title “most spectacular archaeological site in Ireland”.
Situated just outside Cashel town in County Tipperary, this limestone mound rises 200 feet into the air, giving an ominous and towering presence to the fortifications perched on top. These include the ruins of a castle, a cathedral, an abbey, a chapel, a round tower, high crosses and several other structures, all of which are enclosed within an impressive stone wall.
The Rock’s history goes back to the fourth century AD, when it was the royal seat of the Eoghanachta clan, originally from Wales, and ultimately conquerors of the Munster province. The Rock first gained a religious significance in the fifth century, when St. Patrick is said to have converted and baptised King Aengus, chief of the Eoghanachtas, there.
The Eoghanachta clan held possession of the Rock for another five centuries until it was taken by one of Ireland’s greatest historical figures, Brian Boru. having taken control of the Rock in the 987 AD, Boru was crowned High King of Ireland on the Rock of Cashel in the year 1002.
Over the next few centuries, the various churches, chapels and other structures mentioned were added to the Rock until, in 1647, it fell to a Cromwellian army, under Lord Inchiquin. The army sacked and burned many of the structures.
In the early 18th century, the Rock was used as a place of worship by the Protestant Church, but this lasted only 20 years, and it has never since been used as an official place of worship. Today the Rock attracts many visitors, who are free to climb to the top and explore its ruins, or visit its small but informative interpretive centre.
Image by Irish Typepad