Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rock of Cashel

By Chuck
We decided, en route, to go to our campground, Cashel Lodge and Camping Park, €25, before seeing the Rock of Cashel, since there was a parking fee there and we thought we could simply walk from the campground. We were right! Furthermore, the town centre is also walkable—from either the campground or the site.

Holly, West Highland Terrier, the Campground Dog—No more cats for awhile, I guess

Our camper, seen from the Rock of Cashel

Ever since reading Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series, I’ve wanted to see the Rock of Cashel. I came knowing that the 7th century AD time period of interest to me left no excavated artifacts; and I was prepared to simply walk around and take in the view from outside the walls. But, as we approached the site, Claire said it would be a shame to come so near and not see it up close. I had to agree. It turned out to be a memorable site, thanks largely to an hour long tour by Brighid (pronounced ‘Breed’) and a 20 minute video giving an overview of the history of the place.

The place has stunning vistas, which are lovely today; but this is far from the original defensive purposes of the Rock upon the strategic high ground. St. Patrick baptized King Aengus here in ~450 AD. The legend is that old St. Patrick was nervous about the ceremony and accidentally speared the king’s foot with his crozier staff. The king, thinking this was part of the rite, suffered stoically until the end. It is not recorded whether St. Patrick converted any other pagans later that day.

I thought the Round Tower was particularly impressive. It was the first structure completed after the transfer of the property to the Church in 1101. It was built with “dry” stone construction—it used no mortar at all, and yet it has survived all these years. [In recent years, mortar has been added in some areas, to ensure the survival of the tower and the safety of tourists.]

Bishop's House on left, attached to Cathedral on right

Round Tower of Cashel

I should point out how helpful Rick Steves was, once again, when he warned about the cold, windy weather atop the Rock. We wore a second layer and caps; Claire also wore gloves. Bad weather caused the Archbishop to move from the Rock into the town below several hundred years ago, and one particularly severe storm caused a large piece of the wall to fall more than a century ago. It sits on the site as a visual reminder of how serious weather conditions here can be.

There is a replica of the coronation rock that is supposed to have been used for all Irish Kings in Munster from an early time until the Normans conquered the area around the 12 century. This also served as their safety deposit box—it is hollow on the bottom and was used to hide small valuables in times of war. On top is a replica of the 12th century Cross of St. Patrick—the originals of the rock and the cross are inside the museum.

Original St. Patrick’s Cross

Some believe that if you can reach all the way around the Cross of St. Patrick, you will never again have a toothache. Further, if you can hop around the cross 9 times, counterclockwise, you will be married within a year. [There was no explanation of what happens if you are already married. Wait a minute: If you are married and hop around the cross, then you are already married within a year; right?]

Replica of St. Patrick’s Stone Cross

For many years, approximately 5th century AD to 1101, this was both the seat of monarchy and ecclesiastical power, residing in one person. When King Murtagh O’Brian feared he would lose his power and the Rock to his rival, the McCarthy clan, he gave the site to the Catholic Church, earning favor on that front and guaranteeing that no one else could have it.

Across the field from our camping spot are the remains of the 13th century [first Benedictine, then Cistercian] St. Mary’s Abbey (a.k.a Hore’s Abbey, so called because the Cistercian monks wore simple gray robes about the same color as hoarfrost—the ice crystals that form on morning grass). The resident Archbishop, a wealthy landowner, said he had a dream in which the Benedictines murdered him. This caused him to evict the introspective Benedictines and invite in the hard-working, agricultural Cistercians. It’s just wonderful when the pious are rewarded by the turnings of fate.

St. Mary’s Abbey

We were cold and hungry after the tour and walked into town to find Feehan’s Bar. The food was lovely; but neither of us could finish the generous portions. We forewent our original choice of ales for something warmer—tea for me and cappuccino for Claire.

Claire’s seafood chowder with a mound of cheese on top and tomato cheese soda bread on the side.

Chuck’s triple club sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg. It came with chips and cole slaw.

Digging through the very thick chowder, Claire discovered more treasures down below.

Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language; it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation, and usually of being mauled by it. ~ Conor Cruise O'Brien


Bob said...

How many kilos does the scale indicate? What are your plans as far as recovery from this odyssey?

Karin said...

The Rock of Cashel was always one of my favourite places....

Have stopped 3 or 4 times and each time it is different. The first was, of course, the most special. The next time I walked through with a "walkman" (remember those?!) with Enya playing. That was pretty the mood. The next time I remember was about October and a full moon and clear night! How special can THAT be?

That sandwich with the coleslaw....I remember Irish coleslaw as being VERY good! And Claire, your cheese soda bread must have been very tasty! Looking at the pics made me very hungry for some good old Irish food! I suppose by now you are aware that most Irish restaurants serve Potatoes in many forms, all in one meal! Pretty hearty food, must think we are all farmers and need a lot of carbs! Ha, ha.

I just can't imagine the picture of Chuck wearing all those clothes! It is July, for goodness sake!!!! As I write this I am in "next to nothing" as it is so hot! Crazy, huh? I actually would trade you (for a bit anyway) as I am sick of this heat and dryness and crave damp, fog, rain, and mist. Must be missing Ireland!!! Ha, ha.

Karin on Paros

Chuck and Claire said...

Hi Bob
If you are referring to the food, too many; but, I think our weights are about the same as when we left.
No special plans for recovery; but, we know we will be very busy the first few days--registering with DMV and getting smog checks and bringing selected items down from the attic and setting up the additional computers.

Chuck and Claire said...

Our weights are not the same. Chuck has lost weight and I've gained. Not fair!

Chuck and Claire said...

It was really cold up on the rock and we were very glad we had our hats, gloves and heavy jackets. The wind was merciless. Down below it was quite pleasant and I even hang some laundry out to dry later on. We're dying for some sun with some heat behind it.