Track the story of St. Patrick and it will take you on an expedition through lush hillsides, majestic cathedrals, medieval villages and monastic ruins. If your travels find you in Ireland, one can’t help but follow in the footsteps of this country’s patron saint. As I traveled through the Ireland, I discovered bits of St. Patrick’s dramatic history in the places I visited. The most impactful locations was the Rock of Cashel (the Rock) in the heart of County Tipperary.
It is at the Rock where St. Patrick converted King Aengus of Munster to Christianity in the 5th Century A.D. When he was a teenager, St. Patrick had been kidnapped from his home in Wales by Irish pirates. He escaped in his 20s but returned to Ireland and began leading the nation to Christianity. King Aengus evolved into Ireland’s first Christian monarch, and the Rock grew into a religious center.
Walking up the hill to the Rock of Cashel you can understand why the name Cashel (Caiseal) means stone fort. From up here you can see anyone approaching its majestic gates for miles. The surrounding villages and farms are tiny dots in the distance. As you walk around, you unconsciously talk in a hushed tone, as if in respect for the ancient royal history that has occurred on this land.
I was dwarfed under the archway and vaulted ceilings to Cormac’s Chapel. The Romanesque chapel built between 1127 and 1134 is surrounded by the gothic cathedral and castle. I looked around the faded and eroding stone facade at the barely visible frescoes, sculptures, and medieval tombs. I imagined the kings, monks and priests that walked within these buildings. You can make out drawings of Christ’s life in the scenes on the walls. On the west side of the sanctuary is a carved rock coffin that is said to contain the body of King Cormac himself.
There is a luminous well preserved round tower rising 90 feet high that predates the cathedral by 200 years and the chapel by 30. The entire complex is surrounded by a large graveyard that includes several ornate Celtic crosses. Tombstones dating back for centuries help to tell the history. In the middle is a replica of St. Patrick’s Cross that illustrates Christ’s crucifixion.
One of my favorite stories was folklore about how the Rock came to be. The legend is when paganism was rampant, in fact Ireland was known as the “Gateway to Hell,” St. Patrick went there to hunt down the devil. In his haste to escape, Satan bit off a chunk of the mountain and spit it out on the ground, creating the Rock of Cashel.
The site has one of the most complete collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture than anywhere in Europe. It also has an audio-visual show and exhibitions which contain the original St. Patrick’s Cross. As you wander through Ireland and find yourself on the path of St. Patrick, the Rock of Cashel is a must see and well worth a visit.
St. Patrick's Rock of Cashel
500 m from the centre of Castle Town on Dublin Road
Open all Year:
Mid Sept. – Mid Oct. Daily 09.00 – 17.30 Last admission at 16.45
Mid Oct. – Mid March Daily 09.00 – 16.30 Last admission at 15.45
Mid March – Early June Daily 09.00 – 17.30 Last admission at 16.45
Early June – Mid Sept. Daily 09.00 – 19.00 Last admission at 18.15
Admission Fees: Tickets can only be purchased on site.
Adult : €8.00
Group / Senior : €6.00
Child / Student : €4.00
Family : €20.00
Public toilets and car/coach park close to site
Credit Card Facilities available