Ireland Day 6 Part 2 Visiting the Rock of Cashel
The morning exploring Waterford had been gorgeous, but the skies had clouded up a bit over Waterford as we left. Once again, however, by early afternoon as we approached the small city of Cashel, there was more sun than clouds and the lighting was brilliant. The Rock of Cashel sits atop a large limestone hill, standing above the surrounding rolling countryside like a beacon. The buildings are always in some state of repair, especially since the unusual snowfall of 2013, and there are scaffoldings around the buildings to support the ongoing reconstruction.
While the buildings are from the 12th to 16th century, the Rock was chosen by one of the tribes from Wales called the Eoghanachta clan, who later went on to conquer much of Munster and became kings of the region. For some 400 years it rivaled Tara as a center of power in Ireland. The clan is associated with St Patrick, hence the alternative name of St Patrick’s Rock. The clan lost possession of the rock in the 10th century to the O’Brien tribe. It was then donated by the O’Brien’s to the Church in order to gain favor with Rome.
Numerous buildings have occupied the rock over the years, but the relics that have survived are from the 12th to the 17th century. We enjoyed the guided tour of the buildings, although once again the standing around got terribly tiresome, and I wandered off several times to photograph the amazing Irish landscape with the distant mountains and the Celtic crosses in the cemetery in the foreground. I do so hope that I caught at least a bit of what it felt like to stand there on the Rock of Cashel.
There is a back story to the rock that I love, however, the story of its Celtic origins, and even before the arrival of the Celts, when the people were close to the earth and worshipped the female deities that oversaw birth, fertility, and death. I studied about the images of Sheela Na Gig many years ago, and have a small replica that I treasure. There are more Sheela Na Gig carvings in Ireland than anywhere else, with 101 examples in Ireland and 45 in the rest of Britain. Wikipedia has some extensive information about the Sheela Na Gigs.
As is often the case in these early Christian sites, the goddess religions were suppressed by the conquering Christians, but they were smart enough to keep the local goddesses and rituals and incorporated many of them into the Christian traditions. St Patrick is the epitome of this as his mission was to eliminate the Old Religion from Ireland aka the legend of his miraculously getting rid of the “snakes”. There are no snakes to get rid of in Ireland, but the original Celts, wandering tribes who came to Ireland a few hundred years before Christ, brought with them their images and snake symbols.
Still, as the religions shifted, the powerful sites remained, chosen as places of worship and power for reasons that I think go much deeper than religion. Right next to the cross of St Patrick, is an original Sheela Na Gig from the Rock of Cashel. Loved seeing her there, secretly reminding me that a deep connection to God may not always be through the organized religions.
“In Ireland, it is a popular legend that the Celtic Christian cross was introduced by Saint Patrick or possibly Saint Declan during his time converting the pagan Irish, though there are no examples from this early period. It has often been claimed that Patrick combined the symbol of Christianity with the sun cross, to give pagan followers an idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun. Other interpretations claim that placing the cross on top of the circle represents Christ’s supremacy over the pagan sun.”
I can’t imagine that there is a more iconic view of Ireland that the brilliant green valleys from the Rock of Cashel with the Celtic Crosses in the foreground. Can’t wait to get to these pictures and see if they are as wonderful as they look in the camera.
Forgot to mention that we had an hour or so before our tour of the Rock to explore the little town of Cashel and find lunch. Options were to choose the “self service” restaurant with their typical choices of quiche, salads, bread and soup, go down to O’Brien’s Pub on the Main Street, a cutesy place with traditional pub food and more beer, or wander off on our own. While we have enjoyed conversing with “the women” as we call them, we both really needed some time away from the crowds and the constant talking. We wandered along, finding a tiny little local spot called Morelli’s, where we had pizza and a little bit of red wine. It was a nice change from beer and potatoes and pubs. As the afternoon drew to a close with the 90 minute ride home, Isabella brought out the copies of lyrics to old Irish songs, “Molly Malone” and “I’ll Be a Rover No More”. In spite of the groans and protestations, we all ended up singing on the bus as we traveled home through the countryside. It was fun in spite of the complaining and rolling eyes.
We were home in time to walk the streets in search of fish and chips and a beer, deciding again that we didn’t want to try to eat in the very gorgeous, very fancy, and very popular pub here in the Granville. With a moment to rest, we were back out walking and found Dooley’s Hotel, where we settled in for fish and chips and a glass of beer for me and a glass of wine for Mo. Sadly, it wasn’t all that great, and as I am looking at the internet as I write, I realize that the recommended best fish and chips ever, are at a place called “Dooly’s Fish and Chips”. Obviously not the place we thought we were dining. The “real” Dooly’s was not within walking distance somewhere out along the river. Note to self, check the spelling when searching and don’t search when tired!
Walking back to the hotel, I got a phone shot of the rising Supermoon, and since I didn’t pack the camera along for supper, thinking the phone would suffice, I can’t give you a supermoon photo, Deanna. Maybe, however, I can manage one tonight, and possibly I can get myself out of bed at 3 in the morning tomorrow to try to see the Supermoon and the total lunar eclipse that will be visible from our location in Killarney.
It is now 1AM, and not a peep of noise from anywhere is to be heard. I can pack in the morning and actually manage to get some decent sleep in preparation for climbing all those steps at Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone tomorrow.
The rest of the photos of the Rock of Cashel are on my SmugMug site here.
Next: The Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle and on our way to Killarney