CASHEL, a city of Co. Tipperary, Ireland, in the east parliamentary division, 5 m. S.E. of Goold’s Cross and Cashel station on the main line of the Great Southern & Western railway, 96 m. S.W. from Dublin. Pop. of urban district (1901) 2938. The town, which lies at the base of the Rock of Cashel, is of somewhat poor appearance, but contains several public buildings. There are also the cathedral church of St John the Baptist (c. 1780), the deanery house (once the bishop’s palace), and a Roman Catholic church. Cashel gives name to a Roman Catholic archdiocese.
The Rock of Cashel is the object of chief interest in the place. This elevation of limestone formation rises abruptly from the plain to a height of about 300 ft. and is a commanding object for many miles around. Its summit is occupied by one of the most interesting assemblages of ruins in Ireland, consisting of the remains of St Patrick’s cathedral, a round tower, Cormac’s chapel, and an ancient cross. The chapel, which is said to have been erected by King Cormac M‘Carthy in the 12th century, combines the ancient form of high stone roof, having chambers between the pitch and the vault, with the richest Norman decoration; the chancel arch being of especial magnificence. The cathedral, of the 13th century, is cruciform in design, with lancet windows and pointed arches, and contains many interesting sculptures and tombs. In the adjoining cemetery there stands, on a rude pedestal, whereon the kings of Munster were crowned, the “Cross of Cashel,” with an effigy of St Patrick and a portrayal of the Crucifixion sculptured on its sides. The round tower, situated at the north-east angle of the cathedral, is 80 ft. high with a circumference of 50 ft., and unlike the neighbouring ruins is built, not of the limestone of the “Rock,” but of freestone. Of the defences of the Rock a massive guard-tower and portions of the wall remain. At the base of the Rock is Hore Abbey, a Cistercian foundation (1272), exhibiting a similar style of architecture to that of the cathedral on the Rock; and within the town is a Dominican priory (1243), of which the east window is a beautiful example of the style of the period. From the Rock itself an extensive prospect is commanded over the rich Golden Vale backed by the Galtee Mountains, the Devil’s Bit, and other ranges; the clustering roofs of the city providing a picturesque foreground.
The history of Cashel belongs to the early period of Irish chronology. Legend states that the vision of an angel blessing the Rock, seen by two swineherds early in the 5th century, led Corc Mac Luighdheach, king of Munster, to establish a stronghold here. It became one of the principal seats of the kings of Munster, but in 1101 it was given over to the church by King Murkertagh O’Brien. It afterwards became noteworthy as the place where Henry II. received the homage of O’Brien, king of Limerick, and still later, where Edward Bruce held his Irish parliament. The cathedral was burnt in 1495 by the earl of Kildare. Cashel was taken by storm during the wars of 1647. It was reduced from an archbishopric to a bishopric in 1839, and was disfranchised, on account of corrupt practice, in 1870, having previously returned one member to parliament.