"Caiseal na Ri" (Cashel of the Kings) is the message that welcomes the visitor to this celebrated town, but Cashel's story is not confined to tales of royalty. The ancient settlement has also served as an ecclesiastical hub and military fortress. Cashel's importance, established since antiquity, has carried through into modern times.

A Seat for Kings and Clerics

The Rock was the feature around which the town was built, as the outcrop of limestone was a ready-made fort. The Rock dominates the area's history. The word for fort in Irish is caiseal and, in Latin, castellum, hence the town's name. The Eóganacht established the first kingship in Cashel in the 4th or 5th Century. Soon after, St. Patrick made his famous visit and transformed the Munster kingship from one of paganism to Christianity. It was at Cashel that Munster's kings were crowned, one of the more famous being Brian Ború. In 1101 the royal seat became an ecclesiastical site when King Muircheartach Ua Briain granted the Rock to the church.

Ecclesiastical Establishment to Dissolution

In 1171 Henry II laid claim to the Norman conquest of the country, and on reaching Cashel he convened a synod there that attracted most of the Irish hierarchy. The town of Cashel itself was founded in 1218. From the 12th to the 15th Century the development of ornate and magnificent ecclesiastical buildings reflected its importance as a centre of religious administration and pilgrimage. In 1491 the Cathedral was burned by Gearóid Mór, the Earl of Kildare, who did so thinking that Archbishop David Creagh was inside. The Reformation dissolved Dominican and Cistercian (Hore) Abbeys, while the structures on the Rock became the property of the Church of Ireland.

The Bloody 1640s


Cashel saw the first stirrings of the Confederate War in Munster when, in 1642, Philip O'Dwyer of Kilnamanagh seized the town, a base for Lord President St. Leger's troops. Six years later it was brutally recaptured by Lord Inchiquin, who "thickly covered" the ground with corpses. In 1649 that massacre was still fresh in the memory, and, therefore, resistance to Cromwell was non-existent. He took the town at his ease and went to establish his headquarters there for a time.

Cashel Welcomes "Ireland's Advocate"

The 17th Century saw the establishment of a new Cathedral in the town, and in the mid 1700s the old Cathedral on the Rock was abandoned. The 1800s were years of lively political activity in the town, the highlight of which was Daniel O'Connell's first Repeal meeting in 1843. The venue was chosen for its symbolic value, and attracted a crowd of over 20,000. The centenary of Emancipation was celebrated there in 1929, drawing more enormous crowds to this famous place of pilgrimage

Sources - Bassett, "Co. Tipperary"; Dúchas, "Rock of Cashel"; Moloney (Ed.), "Times to Cherish"

previousPrevious - Ormond Castle
Next - The Rock of Cashelnext