Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ireland: Rock of Cashel

Looking up at Cashel and it defensible position

No trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at this unique ruin. A complex of fortresses and cathedrals, it is a hodgepodge of architecture covering many millennia. Home to king and bishop, it contains ruins, palaces, and a wonderful Celtic cross cemetery. It is located in County Tipperary in the south-central part of Ireland.

The round tower

The buildings sit atop a large upthrust of granite with dramatic views of the surrounding plain. It is easy to see why every noble and his brother wanted to live and defend the rock. It is the only high ground around. Unlike today’s interlopers, they did not scrape and rebuild but continually added on so that what remains is a tangle of grey stone only a tour guide can unravel.

The join between Cormac and the Cathedral

I confess I wandered about snapping pictures without a clear appreciation for what I was looking at. I just like ruins. Their antiquity reminds me how far we have come while at the same time their decay reminds me of the fleetingness of power, religious dogma, and wealth. The wonders of the Internet, however, will allow me to describe a few of the features.

Exterior of the Cathedral

Interior of the Cathedral

The 90 ft round tower, the oldest building and dates from 1100. The next oldest is the Chapel of King Cormac, which dates from 1134. This building stands out because its stone is a Rufus brown while the other buildings are slate gray. Still, it easy to miss this chapel since it dwarfed by the Cathedral built in 1270.

Celtic cross cemetery

Standing in this structure one senses the awe the common peasant must have gained by struggling to the top of this promontory and standing within the lofty environs of its sanctuary. Surely such a place would have felt divinely inspired. A brightening of the gray, dull existence of those whose only joy was the thought that heaven promised a better life. The crumbling stone and moss covered crosses tell a different, more painful story. All is dust and inconsequence. Had they known, would they have treated their overlords differently?

Another exterior view

Coming from Colorado, I could not help but enjoy the views of the surrounding plains. There are several younger ruins scattered about within cannon shot but there did not seem to be a way to get there. They stand out starkly against the sweet meadow grasses that are slowly reclaiming the ground on a scale invisible to the human eye.

Other posts from my trip to Ireland:


Michele said...

The sight of the Rock coming into view as I approached was a sight never to be forgetten. How imposing and stunning is it?

sylvia murphy said...

To someone from the US, all ruins seem stunning. We just don't have the antiquity.