Monday, 15 July 2013

Cahir Castle & Rock of Cashel

Today we drove to find the Knockroe Passage Tomb near Carrick-on-Suir. After our visit to Castlemagner yesterday our GPS has no UK maps any longer so it was more than a challenge to find this tomb with no signposts at all. Luckily the GPS could show a flag for the co-ordinates but not any streets as to how to get to the monument. After driving many Ireland lanes we finally stopped and walked to the top of the hill and were rewarded with a large passage tomb with the mounded rocks removed and only the kerb stones and passageway stones remaining which gave another insight into this style of tomb after visiting Newgrange etc with the covering rocks.

The Knockroe passage tomb has only been excavated since 1990. It has about 30 decorated stones and, like Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, the face of the cairn flanking the eastern tomb was decorated with a frieze of quartz. Also, like Newgrange, the roof-box in the western tomb allows the rays of the sun to pass along the upward-sloping passage at the Winter Solstice (21st December), when it illuminates a tall red-sandstone portal. Unlike Newgrange however these rays pass through the roofbox at sunset rather than sunrise. The other aspect of Knockroe that makes it worth investigating is that until its discovery, the prior most southern site of its kind was at Baltinglass Hill in County Wicklow. And the fact that there are two tombs on the one site also marks it out as uncommon. 

The monument known locally as 'The Caiseal' has two passages on the southern side. The eastern passage, has a cruciform chamber with a sill stone towards the front of the passage. Very large kerbstones on the southern side arcing around to the western passage are present and also some of the quartz that is scattered around the site. Although the western passage has a more simple design it is more interesting in that it has an alignment to the winter solstice and on both sides of the entrance are several large graded orthostats that give the impression of a court when viewed from the front. When you look up through the western passage you see the decorated stones forming the chamber. 

Cahir Castle is an imposing 13th-15th Century structure, skilfully designed by Conor O’Brien to be a state-of-the-art defensive castle. Appearing to grow from the actual rock on which it stands, the castle has been the scene of sieges and bombardments for centuries. The powerful Anglo-Norman family, the Butlers, came into the possession of the castle in 1375. The castle was captured three times in its history: it fell to Devereux, Earl of Essex, in 1599 after it had been battered for three days with artillery; it surrendered without a fight to Inchiquin in 1647; and again to Cromwell in 1650. Over the centuries the Butlers considerably rebuilt and extended their stronghold. However, by 1599, the castle had reached its present appearance, with the only subsequent alterations taking place in the 1840s. In 1961, the last Lord Cahir died and the castle reverted to the State. The castle retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. It is one of Ireland's largest and best preserved castles. It is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir.

The Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phádraig), more formally St. Patrick's Rock, it is also known as Cashel of the Kings. Reputedly the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. Long before the Norman invasion The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster, although there is little structural evidence of their time there.

The Rock of Cashel is a spectacular group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale including the 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. One of Ireland’s most spectacular archaeological sites with a collection of medieval church buildings and fortresses set on top of a limestone outcrop rising out of County Tipperary’s Golden Vale. It is a significant historical site and for 600 years was the power-base of the kings of Munster.


Vicor's Choir Building

Cormac's Chapel

Unusual carvings of faces are found throughout the chapel

This arch has faces making up one of the ornate layers of the arch
The Cathedral

Celtic Cross

Here on the exterior wall of the cathedral is a sheela-na-gig with the stone placed sideways with the head to the left and feet to the right set high up on the wall in the roof apex

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