Monday, July 10, 2006

Rock of Cashel

N.B. This is the final post (twelfth of twelve) from my trip to Ireland.
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Today I ventured farther afield, taking the Irish equivalent of Greyhound out halfway to Cork, to a small town called Cashel. (Pronounced "CASH-ull" rather than "ca-SHELL".) The town is cute enough, although some sights that were supposed to be open were closed, and the construction work on the roads detracted a bit from the appeal of some of the outdoor seating at cafes on Main Street.

But you do not really go to Cashel for the town. The big draw is "The Rock" which (unlike Alcatraz) was never a prison. It is a castle/cathedral amalgam -- very heavily fortified ecclesiastical ruins dramatically perched on top of a hill.

It is beautifully set in a pastoral landscape near a ruined abbey.

The oldest part is a lovely round tower, which is apparently all original except for the mortar they stuck in for preservation. That is, the tower was originally just a bunch of rocks carefully placed together for a perfect fit, without any glue, concrete, etc. These days, people get nervous about that kind of thing, so they apparently dismantled it and reassembled it with mortar to make sure the tourist attraction remains intact. They do have a point with this particular structure, on top of this particular hill. There is a huge chunk of the main cathedral part of the building lying exactly where it fell in the last big storm, in the mid-1800s, shortly before it was abandoned. And there is a large monument in the cemetery area, which used to be adorned with a celtic cross ... until it was cracked and destroyed by lightning.

The other two buildings in the complex are a mostly roofless cathedral (spectacular), and a romanesque chapel which, I am told, is quite significant architecturally in Ireland.

View of the roofless nave of the cathedral (toward the location of the high altar):

The Rock is a very popular place to be buried ("people are dying to get in"). When the Office of Public Works took over the site, they tried to close the cemetery, but there was such an outcry from townsfolk wanting to be buried with their family and friends, that they created a registry of 100 people who would be grandfathered in. Four of those last hundred are still alive. Once they too are dead and buried, the cemetery will really close.

One last shot - the rocky terrain toward the entrance of the Rock of Cashel.

Nearby ruined abbey, with bovines.
Since I managed to destroy my regular camera at the Dublin Zoo (although luckily a modern hero climbed over the fence and fished it out of the monkey pond for me, thus saving my 300+ pictures), I bought a disposable film-based camera to use for the occasion, which I developed at my favorite store, Boots.

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