Stone Forts

If you ever spend any time in Ireland you will come across the stone forts, also known as ring forts and cashels. They were usually farming settlements and normally date from between 500-900 CE, though they were reused later as well. Many are testaments to the brilliance of drystone walling and the skill of the builders as they are still standing today. Some were ‘fixed’ at later dates of course. They vary in purpose and in style but they usually have some common features. For example the majority contain stairs worked into the side of wall of the fort. These forts were not roofed over to create one residence, in fact the exterior walls were used for protection, from the weather and attack, and houses either of stone or wood were built inside. The design of the stairs allowed people to access the top of the walls simply. The forts often also command the high ground, giving an excellent view to any possible attackers, as well as providing a defensive position. Many stone forts feature souterrains, these are holes or tunnels in the walls of the forts. There is ongoing debate as to whether they were used for storage, for escape or both.

The five stone forts featured below are each good examples of a different aspects of stone fort building. The sites below are listed in no particular order.

Lecanabuile

Lecanabuile and the next stone fort listed Cahergall  in County Kerry are excellent examples of two forts built close together. These are two communities which would have interacted. You can see Cahergall in the distance in most of the photos below. Lecanabuile dates to the 9th or 10th centuries CE. The circular enclosing wall is more than 3m thick and roughly 20m in diameter. There has been some reconstruction. The remains of the round house you can see in the photos below is relatively contemporary to the outside walls and a souterraine inside leads to a gap between the external walls. The external walls were built by building two stone walls and filling the interior. The square building you can see attached to the round one is a later addition showing the ongoing use of these stone forts. The other structures you can see inside the walls are later again.

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 Cahergall

Cahergall, as you can see from its appearance in the earlier photos, is just down the hill from Lecanabuile. Its stone walls are very impressive as they tower over the surrounding landscape. The walls have been reconstructed to an extent in recent times. It was built around 600 CE and the walls stand at around 6m high and 3m thick. There is a stone house inside that is original and would have once likely housed someone important. Like Lecanabuile it is entirely drystone walled.

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Dunbeg

Dunbeg is a little different to the other stone forts in that it is a promontory fort. It was built around the 8th or 9th centuries CE and was occupied again in the 10th and 11th centuries CE. It stands on a sheer cliff on the Dingle Peninsula. One of the key issues with it standing on a sheer cliff is that the fort is currently falling into the sea, as can be seen in several of the photos below. It also has extensive earthwork defences surrounding it. There was also probably settlement on the site before the building of the fort. Behind the earthworks and the drystone wall there is the clochain, or beehive hut. The life in the fort would have been centred on the two hearths inside the beehive. The main entrance is currently blocked due to instability, but you can see how it is structured in the photos below. Additionally there is a souterrain which runs from the inside to the outside of the fort. There was probably also more buildings originally but they may have been claimed by the coastal erosion.

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Grianan Aillgh

The original hill fort in this position would have been built probably sometime around the 1st century CE, but it was the royal citadel of the Ui Neill family from the 5th to the 12th century. It stands in Donegal. There is also a burial mound nearby which dates to roughly 3000 BCE and this might have attracted the builders originally. The walls stand about 4.5m thick and about 5 m high, but there was fairly extensive rebuilding work in the 1870s. The fort is surrounded by three earthen banks and it is believed that the track that runs through them and up to the fort might be the remains of an ancient roadway.

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Staigue

Staigue stands in County Kerry and happened to be the first fort I saw and it remains one of the most impressive. Dating it is uncertain but it is probably from the early centuries CE. The walls are up to 5.5m high, 4m thick and 27.4m in diameter. The steps in the walls run in a distinctive X shape possibly to make it possible for people to pass each other running up and down. There are no surviving buildings inside the walls, but there are two small chambers contained in the walls which might have been for storage. There would have been houses inside; they just either weren’t built in stone or haven’t survived. The top of the walls command an impressive view of Kenmare bay and would have given the local chieftain ample warning of any attack or visit from the sea. The drystone walling here is particularly impressive and seems to be largely original.

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These stone forts are only examples of the thousands in Ireland, though not all of them are in anywhere near as good condition. If you ever get the chance they are absolutely worth a visit.

For more information see: http://heritagecouncil.ie/unpublished_excavations/section13.html

References: http://www.theringofkerry.com/cahergal-leacanabuaile-forts

http://www.theringofkerry.com/staigue-fort

http://www.dunbegfort.com/

http://www.discoverireland.ie/Arts-Culture-Heritage/grianan-of-aileach/73795

Site visits in 2015

All the photos are mine.

 

Temple Cronan and The Burren

Temple Cronan is a small church dating to the 12th century in the unbelievably beautiful region of Ireland called The Burren.

IMG_3061Part of The Burren.

The Burren is on the West Coast of Ireland in County Clare and Temple Cronan stands just out of a very small town called Carran. Temple Cronan was part of a small monastic enclosure. While much of the remains of the church are original to the 12th century the doorway with the pointed arch that you can see in the photo below was added in the 15th/16th century

IMG_3160Temple Cronan

The original doorway can be seen blocked up in the photos below.

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The church at Temple Cronan measures just 6.5 by 3.1 m and it is built of local Burren stone. A significant amount of decoration survives, which is especially unusual in the such a small church. You can see some on the edge of the window frame in the photo below. IMG_3170IMG_3172Standing beside Temple Cronan and dating to an earlier period are two stone tomb shrines. One is thought to be the grave of St Cronan who was the founder of the small monastic settlement possibly in the 7th century. Both tombs would have been sites of prayer and pilgrimage. It is unknown who the second tomb belonged to.

IMG_3182IMG_3184One of the tombs, possibly St Cronan’s

My favourite part of the Temple Cronan is the carved human heads and faces that adorn the corbels of the church. They are most likely Romanesque in origin and as they have weathered they have become surprisingly haunting.

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Temple Cronan stands in The Burren, which is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. The Burren is a landscape of limestone which was laid down 340 million years ago and has weathered significantly in this time. It has in fact also been shaped by glacier movement. The glacier movement helped to create the ‘grykes’ or cracks that you can see in the photos below. It is an area of 250 square km and in some places the limestone is 17m thick.IMG_3258IMG_3242

Where the ‘lunar’ landscape of The Burren meets the coast.

This unique landscape creates the perfect conditions for an astounding array of flowers with 70% of Ireland’s native plant species found there.

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For more on the plants of The Burren  http://www.pennywoodward.com.au/burren/#more-2454

Temple Cronan is not the only historical site on The Burren. In fact the region is liberally dotted with ancient tombs and and ruins.  The best known is probably Poulnabrone which dates to the Neolithic period and can be seen in the photo below. I hope to write about it and some of the others in the future.

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The Burren is truly beautiful and Temple Cronan not only stands in its midst, but is built of the stone that has shapes it. Below are some photos of the enthralling landscape.

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IMG_6144IMG_3071References: Site visit in 2015 and visit to The Burren  area in general in 2012.

http://www.pennywoodward.com.au/burren/#more-2454

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Temple%20Cronan,%20Clare.html

All the photos are my own.

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 14th of December

Gerald of Wales on the topography of Ireland

Chapter IV: Of the surface of Ireland, and its inequalities; and of the fertility of the soil.

Ireland is a country of uneven surface, and mountainous; the soil is friable and moist, well wooded, and marshy; it is truly a desert land, without roads, but well watered. Here you may see standing waters on the tops of the mountains, for pools and lakes are found on the summits of lofty and steep hills. There are, however, in some places very beautiful plains, though of limited extent in comparison with the woods. On almost all sides, and towards the sea-coast, the land is very low, but in the interior it rises into hills of various elevations and mountains of vast height; not only the surrounding country, but also the central districts, being rather sandy than rocky. The tillage land is exuberantly rich, the fields yielding large crops of corn; and herds of cattle are fed on the mountains. The woods abound with wild animals; but this island is more productive in pasture than in corn, in grass than in grain. The crops give great promise when in the blade, still more in the straw, but less in the ear; for the grains of wheat are shrivelled and small, and can hardly be separated from the chaff by dint of winnowing. The fields are luxuriantly covered, and the barns loaded with the produce. The granaries only show scanty returns.

Chapter V: On the prevalence of winds and rain; and their causes.

The crops which the spring brings forth, and the summer nourishes and advances, are harvested with difficulty, on account of the autumnal rains. For this country is exposed more than others to storms of wind and deluges of rain. A wind blowing transversely from the north west, and more frequent and violent than any other winds, prevails here; the blast either bending or uprooting all the trees standing on high ground in the western districts, which are exposed to its sweep. This arises from the land, surrounded on all sides by a vast sea and open to the winds, not having in those parts any solid shelter and protection, either distant or near. Add to this, that the waters attracted in clouds, and collected together by the high temperature of that region, and yet neither exhaled by fiery atmospheric heat, nor congealed by the coldness of the air and converted into snow or hail, at last burst in copious showers of rain. In short, this country, like other mountainous regions, generates and nourishes most abundant rains. For the heat evaporating from the high lands by excessive wet, the moisture which they attract is easily converted into its native element. And it is usually distinguished by various names, according to its various elevations. While yet hanging about the hills, it is called mist; when it rises higher, and, floating in the atmosphere, is quite disengaged from the earth, it becomes clouds; again descending in drops or particles, it is called snow or rain, according as it is solid or liquid. Thus, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are subject to much rain.

http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/topography_ireland.pdf pgs 12-13

Medieval Quotes Advent Calendar 13th of December

A letter from Henry III to the people of Ireland regarding the institution of the Magna Carta. It was unlikely to have been written by him, as it was still during William Marshal’s regency.

“The King to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, knights, free tenants and all our faithful subjects settled throughout Ireland, greetings.

With out hearty commendation of your fidelity in the Lord, which you have ever exhibited to our lord father and to us in these our days are to exhibit our pleasure is, that in token of this your famous and notable fidelity, the liberties granted by our father and by us, of our grace and gift to the realm of England shall in our kingdom of Ireland be enjoyed by you and your heirs forever.

Which liberties distinctly reduced to writing by the general council of all our liege subjects we transmit to you sealed with the seals of our Lord Gualon, legate of the apostolical see and our trusty earl William Marshal, our governor and governor of our kingdom because as yet we have no seal. And the same shall in the proceeds of time and on fuller council  receive the signature of our seal.

Given in Gloucester on the 6th day of February.”

Dr Thomas Leland, History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II, London, 1773, p. 203.

 

Hook Lighthouse

Hook  Lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. It stands as a testament to the both the danger of the seas around the Hook Head Peninsula and the importance of the travel route that passes its tip.

Hook Head Peninsula is at the tip of South East Ireland and is possibly the origin of the saying ‘by hook or by crook’. Tradition has it that when Cromwell was invading Ireland he said he’d take it by hook or by crook, meaning by Hook Head Peninsula or Crooke in County Waterford. Whether this is true or not is very much debatable, but it is a nice story regardless.

The lighthouse itself was probably originally begun in the early 1200s on the orders of William Marshal. Marshal came to visit the lands in Ireland that came to him by right of his wife Isabel de Clare in 1200-1201. They were caught in a terrible storm crossing the Irish Sea and Marshal vowed to God that if they survived he would found an abbey. The ship didn’t sink and Marshal kept his word. As thanks to God for their survival he founded Tintern Abbey, which also stands on Hook Head Peninsula. It’s known as Tintern of the Vow as well as Tintern Parva, meaning small in Latin. It can be seen below.
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It is a daughter house of Tintern Abbey in wales, which also stood on Marshal land. It can be seen below.

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Hook Head Lighthouse was possibly begun around c. 1210 as a landmark and to guide ships up to Marshal’s newly built port at New Ross. The River Barrow in New Ross can be seen below.

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The light would have been coal fired and quite simple. You can see what it looks like now in the photos below, as well as the view from around the lighthouse. The particular black and white striping is unique to the Hook lighthouse so it can be clearly identified by ships.

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The walls of the lighthouse are between 2-4 m thick and there are currently three main rooms.

The coal storage room from when the light was a fire

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The secondary lighthouse keepers room and the chief light house keeper’s room. When the lighthouse was originally built it was run by monks and this room would probably have been used as a prayer space.

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Above the fireplaces in the chief lighthouse keeper’s room you can see some brown coloured stains. These are the ox blood that was used in the plaster. The heat of fires has brought it to the surface. It is possible that some of the plaster was original. It was made with straw and horsehair and ox blood to tie it together.

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Tradition has it that there was some form of light on this position before Marshal had his constructed. In c. 500-1000 CE St Dubhan founded a monastery in roughly this position and the monks used to light a beacon fire to warn ships.

The first historical record of the light is in the 1240s when the monks from Churchtown were installed as lighthouse keepers. It can be presumed that they continued as such until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. By the 17th century the light was untended, but numerous shipwrecks and complaints led to its restoration in the 1670s with the first glass lens to protect the coal fire.

In the late 1600s the lighthouse came into the possession of the Loftus family and they leased it to the authorities in 1706.

Following repeated complaints the coal fired light was replaced by an oil burning lamp in 1791.

In the 1860s the lighthouse keepers moved out of the tower and into separate dwellings

In 1871 new gas lights were installed, powered by gas which was manufactured in the gas yard. Paraffin oil subsequently became the source of power.

In 1911 a clockwork mechanism was installed so the light became a flashing one rather than a fixed beam. It had to be wound every 25 minutes.

The light became electric in 1972

In 1996 the lighthouse was automated ending 800 years of lighthouse keepers.

The current light is not open to the public, but a slightly earlier version can be seen in the coal store. It is made by Aga.

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Hook lighthouse has a fascinating history and the building itself is truly beautiful. What you can’t quite see in the photos is how tactile the walls of the lighthouse are. It curves in a way the photos just don’t translate.

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I’ve been to Hook Head twice.

Once in horrible weather.

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And once in lovely weather

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But whatever the weather it is a spectacular building, a spectacular setting and as one of the oldest operational  lighthouses in the world a real historical treasure. Not to mention it was probably begun by William Marshal, one of my favourite historical people. If you ever get the chance it is an amazing place to visit.

References: Notes from two site visits, 2012 and 2015 and http://hookheritage.ie/index.php/the-lighthouse/timeline/

The photos are all mine.

A Pictorial Tour of Medieval Cathedrals.

This is by no means a comprehensive survey of medieval cathedrals. It does however cover a significant number in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France. These are immense buildings with varied history and the survival of some is truly remarkable. You will find that some cathedrals have more information than others, this is simply because I either have more information on these cathedrals or more information is known.

They are sorted alphabetically by location

All the photos are mine

1. Albi

Saint Cecile Cathedral

Building Begun: 1282

Building Finished: Not entirely complete until 1492 but mainly finished by 1383

It was built as a statement of church authority over the surrounding populous as part of the conclusion of the Albigensian Crusade, something I will write more about at a later date. It is not an accident that it looks like a fortress.

Length: 113.50 m

Width: 35 m

Height: The belfry is 78m

Biggest brick cathedral in the world.

Style: Southern Gothic

The paintings in the nave were done between 1509 and 1512 and are surrounded by 29 chapels

Source Albi information booklet: ISBN: 9782913641792

For more information

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/albi-cathedral

Albi Cathedral Albi cathedral inside

2. Angers

Saint Maurice Cathedral

Building Begun: 12th century. This cathedral is the product of several rebuilding projects. The striking west front that you can see in the first image dates from c. 1170.

Building Finished: The cathedral was finished  in the late 13th century with the chancel dating from c. 1270, the steeples were added later in the 15th century and and a central tower in the 16th.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic, with some Renaissance additions.

Height: The steeples stand at: southern 70 m northern 77 m

Length: The nave is 950 m

The nave dates from the mid 12th century and is an excellent example of the emerging Gothic style, with some features remaining Romanesque.

Sources: Angers information booklet.

For more information

http://www.spottinghistory.com/view/1111/angers-cathedral/
Angers CathedralAngers Cathedral inside

3. Bayeux

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building Begun: Early 1000s, but what remains now is largely 13th century

Building Finished: This cathedral was built in several stages due to a number of disasters, but the majority was finished by the end of the 13th century with some chapels built in the 14th century and the central tower in the 15th century.

Style: Norman Gothic and some Romanesque inside

People involved: Much of the early construction was continued under Bishop Odo the brother of William the Conquerer

Major Disasters: In 1105 Henry I King of England set fire to the town of Bayeux and the cathedral. The cathedral was also set on fire during the English period of anarchy (1136-1154). Raids in the Wars of Religion in 1652 resulted in interior destruction.

The cathedral was also the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the Battle of Hastings and its lead up. In fact it is possible that the tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo for the consecration of the cathedral. For more on the tapestry read my earlier post.

Source: Bayeux Cathedral information booklet. ISBN: 9782915762549

For more information see

http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com/en/visiteguidee/the-cathedral-of-bayeux/

Notre Dame Cathedral Bayeaux

bayeaux inside

4. Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

Building Begun: The building you see now was begun in 1070s but it stood on the site of an earlier church. There have been several additions since then: The eastern arm of the church was extended in the 1130s and the staircase towers date to 1166. The quire was rebuilt in 1175 after a fire gutted it in 1174. The current nave was begun in 1377 and the main tower was finished in 1498. In the 1800s the north west tower was found to be dangerous so it was demolished and replaced by a copy of the south west tower.

Style: Romanesque, English Perpendicular Gothic, French Gothic.

Height: The central tower in 249 feet high.

The cathedral was part of the monastery until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540

Major Disasters: Parts were damaged in WWII

The Cathedral is arguably best known as the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket ,Archbishop of Canterbury, at the hands of Henry II’s  knights in 1170. Becket was canonised in 1173 and was arguably more of a problem to Henry II dead than alive. He was also very profitable for the cathedral as it became an important place for pilgrimage. For an eyewitness account of the death of Thomas Becket http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Grim-becket.asp

Sources: Canterbury Cathedral Booklet. ISBN 9780906211441

For more information

http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/conservation/history/

Canterbury Cathedral Canterbury Cathedral inside

5. Carcassonne

Saint Michel Cathedral

Built: Originally in the 13th century, but rebuilt in the 14th century as a fortified church following damage during war.

Style: Gothic with a little Romanesque

It was originally built as a parish church but was elevated to cathedral status in 1803.

For more information

http://archiseek.com/2009/1879-carcassonne-cathedral-france/

Carcassone real

Carcassone real inside

6. Cashel

Ruined cathedral on The Rock of Cashel

Building: c. 1230, main part finished c. 1270. But the tower dates to the 15th century. It was squeezed in between the earlier Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower

Style: Predominantly Gothic.

Major Disasters: Sacked by Lord Inchiquin on behalf of the English Parliament in 1647.

The cathedral was used until 1749 when the old site was abandoned and St John’s in the town below the Rock was conferred cathedral status. The cathedral was allowed to become a ruin.

Source and for more information: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/media/NEW%20Rock%20of%20Cashel_3.pdf

Cashel cathedral

Cashal cathedral inside

7.  Chartres

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The foundations of this cathedral are Romanesque. The crypts are the only surviving part from this time and are the largest in France. Building of this part of the cathedral was begun in 1020 after a fire, though there have been earlier churches on the site. After another fire in 1194 construction of a new Gothic cathedral, which is primarily what remains today, was begun and took roughly 30 years. The two towers are a mixture of styles because they were built at different times. The cathedral also suffered an earlier fire in 1134 and the bell tower was destroyed, it was after this that the north west tower was built in the Romanesque style. It originally had a wooden spire, but this was destroyed in the 1500s and a stone spire built. The tower was originally free standing. The majority of the cathedral is 13th century with an astonishing 80% of the original stained glass remaining. It has not been substantially rebuilt, which is unusual in medieval cathedrals.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Height: NW tower: 113 m SW tower: 105m.

Length: 130m

As well as it’s asymmetric towers Chartres is also known for its labyrinth. This can be seen in the the image below. The labyrinth probably dates to the 1200s, though it may have been earlier. It was a form of prayer and meditation for pilgrims and clergy as well as possibly the site of rituals.  Pilgrims of all types still come to Chartres to walk the labyrinth. It is surprisingly calming. For more labyrinth information

http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html

Sources: Chartres Cathedral Guide: ISBN: 9780853726593 and http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

For more information http://chartrescathedral.net/chartres-cathedral-facts/

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral. inside

8. Dublin

Christ Church Cathedral

Building Begun: c. 1030 , but rebuilt after the Norman invasion in 1170 in Romanesque style. It was also extended in 1358. The south nave wall and roof collapsed in 1562 which necessitated more rebuilding. It was also heavily restored in the mid 1800s.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

Richard Strongbow, father in law of William Marshal, and one of the leaders of the first Norman invasion of Ireland, was buried in Christ Church Cathedral when he died in 1176. His effigy was destroyed when the wall fell on it in 1562, but as it had been the site where rents had been paid in that part of Dublin a new Strongbow effigy had to be supplied the replacement dates from the 14th century. This is the effigy you see today.

Sources: Christ Church information leaflet

For more information http://christchurchcathedral.ie/visit-us/history-and-guides/

christ church cathedral dublin

christ church cathedral dublin inside

9. Dublin

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Building: A stone church was built on this site in 1191 but it was rebuilt in the early 13th century. The Lady Chapel was added in 1270, the west tower was rebuilt after a fire in 1370 and the spire dates to 1749. It was also restored in the 1800s.

People Involved: In some ways it’s best known for its connections with Jonathan Swift who was Dean there from 1713-1745, he is also buried in the cathedral.

Sources: St Patrick’s information booklet and http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/History-of-the-Building.aspx

St patrick's cathedral dublin

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin inside

10. Elgin

Ruined Cathedral in Elgin Scotland

Building: Elgin began to be built in 1224. It was expanded after a fire in 1270 and remodelled again after an attack by Earl of Buchan in 1390 and Alexander Lord of the Isles in 1402. Its roof was lost shortly after the reformation and the central tower fell down in 1711. In the 1820s its potential as a visitor attraction was recognised and what remained of the ruin was stabilised.

Sources: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_133

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin cathedral inside

11. Ely

Ely Cathedral

Building: Known as the ship of the fens, work on the existing building began in the early 1080s. It was built on the site of older churches founded on Etheldreda’s monastery. The shrine to Etheldreda remained a pilgrimage point until it was destroyed in 1541. The central tower also fell over in the 1300s and the octagonal tower you can see today was built. The west tower was extended in the 14th century with a belfry and supporting turrets added to the existing Norman tower. The lady chapel was completed in 1349. The interior hammerbeam roof dates to the 15th century. The cathedral was originally a monastic community, but it this was dissolved in the dissolution of the monasteries and the the cathedral was re-founded in 1541.

Style: Romanesque, with some Gothic additions.

Height:  West tower is 66m.

Length: The nave is 76m long.

Sources: Ely information leaflet and http://www.elycathedral.org/history-heritage/the-story-of-ely-cathedral

Ely cathedral

Ely Cathedral inside

12. Glendalough

Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: Part of the Glendalough monastic community. The nave probably dates to 900-1000 and the chancel and sacristy probably date to 1100-1200. It ceased to be a cathedral when the diocese of Glendalough was united with Dublin in 1214. The light coloured stone in the arch comes all the way from Bristol in England, which gives a pretty good indication of how wealthy the Glendalough community was at one point. The “flight of the earls”, which is the name for the departure of many of the last of the Gaelic chieftains of Ireland,  in 1601 really spelled the end for the Glendalough community and the buildings all began to fall into disrepair. In the 1870s Glendalough came under he control of the Board of Works  and they undertook to renovate what remains.

Style: Romanesque and a little Gothic.

Length: 29.6m

Source: Glendalough Booklet. ISBN: 9781905487462

For more information: http://visitwicklow.ie/item/cathedral-of-st-peter-and-st-paul-glendalough/

Glendalough Cathedral

Glendalough cathedral inside

13. Hereford

The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Ethelbert the King.

Building: The building was begun in the early 1100s and the nave, the quire and the crossing still largely date from this time, although it was altered in the 1300s to reflect changing tastes. The wooden interior of the quire dates from the 14th century. The lady’s chapel and crypt below it both date to the 1220s and the north transept was also reconstructed in the mid 1200s. The main tower was constructed in the 14th century. The greatest change to the building work of the cathedral came in 1786 when the west end and its tower collapsed on Easter Monday. The west front was rebuilt and completed by 1796 but it was never popular as it was quiet plain, so it was replaced again in 1908. There was also rebuilding work done in the 1800s

Style: Romanesque and Gothic

Hereford Cathedral is also home to the chained library which was originally held in the lady chapel and is an amazing example of medieval book security. They also hold the Hereford Mappa Mundi, a spectacular map of the world dating to c. 1300.  For more on the Mappa Mundi http://www.themappamundi.co.uk/ for more on the chained library http://www.herefordcathedral.org/visit-us/mappa-mundi-1/the-chained-library

Sources: Hereford Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780904642148

For more information: http://www.herefordcathedral.org/

Hereford Cathedral

Hereford cathedral inside

14.  Kilfenora

Cathedral of Saint Fachtna

Built in the late 1100s after Kilfenora became a diocese. The chancel is now roofless, but parts of the cathedral are still used today. A wooden roof painted with small stars on a blue background remained over the chancel until the last century. Interestingly the diocese of Kilfenora is so small that there is not a specifically appointed bishop, therefore the Pope takes the role of Bishop of Kilfenora.

Kilfenora is also home to several high crosses, which mainly date to around the 12th century. It sits in the fascinating landscape of the Burren.

Source: A site visit in 2012. For more information http://www.theburrencentre.ie/the-burren/kilfenora-the-city-of-the-crosses/

Kilfenora cathedral

Kilfenora cathedral inside

15.  Kilkenny

Saint Canice’s Cathedral

The building work for the existing cathedral began in c. 1202, but it was on the site of an earlier monastery and the round tower was already standing as it had been built in c. 849. The work on the existing cathedral was complete in 1285.  The central bell tower collapsed in 1332 and had to be repaired, though the ribbed vaulting you can see from the interior was added in 1475 and is purely decorative.  The cathedral was also significantly damaged by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and it was left roofless and abandoned for 12 years, before eventually being restored. There was also extensive restoration work undertaken during the 1800s and the 1900s. The roof of the nave dates from this time period.  The choir stalls were installed in 1901.

Style: Early Gothic, predominantly.

Length: Approximately 69 m

Width: 37.5 m

Source: St Canice’s information leaflet. For more information

http://www.stcanicescathedral.ie/visitors-information-page50542.html

St Canice's Kilkenny St Canice's Kilkenny inside

16.  Kirkwall Orkney

Saint Magnus Cathedral

Building: St Magnus was founded in c. 1137.  The St Rognvald chapel was added in the 13th century along with the west door. The cathedral was also extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was built of local red sandstone and yellow sandstone.

The cathedral was built when Orkney was still part of Norway. Orkney didn’t become part of Scotland until 1468 when the islands were annexed by Scotland as part of a failed dowry payment. While the Orkneys remained part of Norway St Magnus was part of the diocese of Trondheim. In 1486 King James III assigned the cathedral to the people of Kirkwall

St Magnus is the patron saint of the Orkneys. Magnus was the eldest son of one of the Earls of Ornkey, his cousin Haakon was the eldest son of the other Earl. They spent much of their life in disagreement, though it was said that Magnus was the more popular and the more pious. After the death of both their fathers this antagonism continued between the two Earls. A meeting was agreed in 1117 to try to resolve some of the differences. They both agreed to bring only 2 ships and a limited number of men, but Haakon broke the agreement bringing 8 ships full of armed men. Magnus refused to let his men defend him against his cousin instead offering three options to Haakon other than killing him. Haakon was willing to accept the 3rd option, which was to blind and maim Magnus and cast him in a dungeon. But Haakon’s advisors told him Magnus had to die. The task fell to Haakon’s cook Lifolf who took up an axe and killed Magnus. Magnus’ last words are said to have been “Take heart, poor fellow, and don’t be afraid. I’ve prayed to God to grant you his mercy.’ Magnus was initially buried on Birsay but miracles began to be spoken of at his grave. The Bishop of Orkney declared him a saint not that long after.

In 1129 Magnus’ nephew came from Norway and defeated Haakon’s son Paul and became Earl of Orkney. He had made a vow that if he succeeded in becoming Earl of Orkney he would build a stone church at Kirkwall and dedicate it to St Magnus and have his relics places there. Earl Rognvald founded St Magnus in 1137 and St Magnus’ relics remain there today along with Earl Rognvald’s.

Style: Northwest European Romanesque and early Gothic.

Source: St Magnus booklet. ISBN: 9780711744677.

For more information http://www.stmagnus.org/

St Magnus' cathedral

St Magnus' cathedral inside

17. Leicester

Saint Martin’s Cathedral

Building: The cathedral was begun in 1000s. There is still a small amount of the 1086 cathedral visible. The Doomsday Book records that there were three churches in Leicester, the current cathedral was one of them.

The church was rebuilt in the 13th century as Leicester Abbey. The nave and the chancel were extended in the 15th century. The spire was added in 1757. It was much restored in the 1800s as well. In 1927 Leicester was given a bishop again and the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral.

Leicester Cathedral has been best known recently for being the re internment site of Richard III. Richard III died at Bosworth Field in 1485, the last English king to die on the battlefield and the final Plantagenet King. He was buried at Greyfriars and was rediscovered under a car park in 2012. He was re-interred in March 2015.

Source: http://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2012/10/31/leicester-cathedral/ and Leicester Cathedral booklet.

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral inside

18. Lincoln

Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Building: The cathedral was founded in 1072 and was consecrated in 1092. Its roof was destroyed by fire in 1141 and rebuilt by 1148. In 1185 an earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and it was rebuilt by St Hugh of Lincoln between 1192 and 1200.  The east transepts were built in c. 1200 and the main transepts in c. 1210. In c. 1230 the chapter house was built. In 1237 the main tower collapsed. The angel choir was built between 1256-80. In 1311 the central tower was raised and the western tower was raised in 1420. In 1549 the spire blew down and the western spires were removed in 1807. The cathedral was much restored in the 1900s.

Style: Gothic and Romanesque.

All the towers had spires until 1549 when the central tower’s spire blew down. For a significant period of time after the 1311, when the tower was raised to its present height, Lincoln Cathedral is thought to have been the tallest buildings in the world.

Lincoln Cathedral is the burial place of the viscera of Eleanor of Castile the wife of Edward I. She was present for the consecration of the Angel Choir in 1280. When she died ten years later her viscera were interred at the cathedral. It is also the site of one of the Eleanor Crosses, the crosses that Edward I had built to remember Eleanor of Castile at the places where her coffin stopped on its return to London.

Sources: Lincoln Cathedral information leaflets and http://lincolncathedral.com/building/history/

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral inside

19. London

Southwark Cathedral

It is ambiguous when there was first a church at Southwark, but an Augustinian priory was re-founded in c. 1106 by two Norman knights. Like most of the area surrounding it the priory was under the control of the Bishops of Winchester. The Bishops control included the Southwark prostitutes. After the dissolution of the monasteries the church became the property of Henry VIII . It was renamed St Saviours and rented to the congregation. A group of merchants bought the church from James II in 1611 for 800 pounds.

By the 1820s the physical state of the building had become a real cause for concern. There was a lot of argument about what to do, at least partly because there were concerns with the new London Bridge and it coming closer to the church Eventually restoration was agreed upon. A new diocese was created for the area in the mid 1800s and as part of this a new nave was built in 1895. In 1905 St Saviours became Southwark Cathedral.

Source: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/

Southwark Cathedral

20. London

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Building: The first cathedral was built in c. 604.  It was rebuilt in stone in 962. After more destruction it was rebuilt again by the Normans beginning in 1087. The quire was the first part of the Norman cathedral finished in 1148, which meant that it could be used for worship as soon as possible. Parts of the cathedral were destroyed during the reformation and under Henry VIII, namely some of the shrines. In 1561 lightning struck the spire and destroyed the steeple and much of the roof. Plans were made for reconstruction, but were never fully carried out as they were interrupted by the English Civil War. The parliamentary forces took the cathedral and its Dean and Chapter were dissolved. The lady chapel became a preaching auditorium and the nave was used as a cavalry barracks with sometimes up to 800 horses stabled inside.

By the 1650s the building was in extensive disrepair, but when Charles II was restored as King plans were made for restoring the cathedral. A plan was actually agreed on in August 1666, which was unfortunately only one week before the Great Fire of London. The scaffolding around the cathedral helped to fuel the fire and as the high vaults fell the books stored there added to the fuel. There were even reports of the stone being so hot that some of it exploded. The structure was beyond hope of rescue.

The building you see now is the masterpiece of Christopher Wren. It took nine years to plan and approximately 35 to build. The final stone was laid in 1708.

The Cathedral is also justly famous for surviving the Blitz of the WWII.

At 111 m St Paul’s was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962.

Source: https://www.stpauls.co.uk/history-collections/history/cathedral-history-timeline

St Paul's Cathedral London modle

 Model of how it would have looked before the Great Fire of London

St Paul's Cathedral London

St Paul’s as it is now

21.  Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: Tradition has it that Notre Dame’s first stone was laid in 1163, it was built in Gothic style. The choir and the double deambulatory were built first and finished by 1182, the last three bays of the nave were finished by 1190, the facade, the first two bays of the nave and the gallery of kings were complete by 1225 and by 1250 the upper gallery, the towers of the facade, the side chapels and some of the flying buttressing was complete. The first spire was added in c. 1250 to the transept tower, a bell tower that at one stage held five bells. It was taken down between 1786 and 1792. In the mid 1800s during the restoration of the cathedral a new spire was added, it is a stand alone tower and is modelled on the spire built in Orleans in 1852.  The transept arms, the north and south counter braces, were extended in the late 13th early 14th century along with the construction of the choir chapels and the asps between the buttresses. There was also fairly extensive restoration work done in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the addition of a new sacristy, the restoration of many of the statues and the installation of new windows.

During the French revolution the cathedral also suffered. The 13th century spire was demolished, 28 statues from the gallery of kings were destroyed, all the major portal statues apart from the statue of the virgin from the cloister portal were also destroyed.

Notre Dame is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It is an excellent example of the Gothic style which was just starting to develop in detail at the time of its construction. It has survived with a remarkably small number of disasters considering its long history.

Source: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?article393

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris inside

22. Paris

Saint Denis Cathedral

Building: The cathedral stands on the site of the tomb of St Denis, who is thought to have been the first Bishop of Paris. He was martyred in c. 25o CE.   While there has been a church on this site since the 6th century in was Abbot Suger in the 12th century who began the Gothic cathedral. It was not a cathedral at this stage, it was the church for the Abbey of St Denis. The church was extended in the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX who later became St Louis. The church suffered at the hands of war and revolution, but was restored in the 19th century. It became a cathedral in 1966.

St Denis has been the burial place of the Kings of France and their families since the 6th century. The cathedral now holds more than 70 effigies. These include: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, though they have no contemporary effigies and their remains were transferred from the Madeline Cemetery in Paris by Louis XVIII, Henri II and Catherine de Medici, King Dagobert, one of the earliest kings of France, and Louis VII, the first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Many tombs have been moved here over the years. For a full list see http://www.monuments-nationaux.fr/fichier/m_media/20/media_fichier_fr_Plan.Basilique.Gisants.PDF.1.pdf

It also contains the royal ossuary, which is where the bones exhumed from the royal tombs during the Revolution were gathered by Louis XVIII.

Sources: St Denis leaflet, http://saint-denis.monuments-nationaux.fr/

St Denis Cathedral St Denis inside

23. Peterborough

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Building: The first church on this site was 655 CE as part of a Celtic abbey. It was destroyed by a Danish attack in 870 and the site was abandoned until the 10th century when a Benedictine community was founded on the site. But in 1070 Hereward the Wake arrived and this led to great damage to the building following resistance to the Norman Conquest. A accidental fire in 1116 caused more damage so it was decided to build an entirely new church which took 120 years and 11 Abbots to complete. The west front, which you can see in the photo, is probably Peterborough’s most recognisable feature, it was completed in the 13th century. The arches are 26m high. The nave’s ceiling was probably completed around 1250 and is the only surviving wooden ceiling of this age and design in the UK.

Peterborough Cathedral is the burial place of Katherine of Aragon and was the original burial place of Mary Queen of Scot after her execution in 1587. Her son James I had her body moved to Westminster Abbey.

Source: Peterborough Cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9780851014593

For more information http://www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk/

Peterbourgh Cathedral Peterbourgh Cathedral inside

24. Rouen

Notre Dame Cathedral

Building: The Romanesque parts of this cathedral began to be built in c. 1000, it was blessed in 1063.  In 1144 it was decided to add a tower to the cathedral and the whole cathedral began to be reconstructed as a Gothic edifice. The Saint Romain tower on the left is a remaining part of some of the very early rebuilding and you can begin to see the transitional style from Romanesque to Primitive Gothic. The reconstruction of the entire cathedral as Gothic began in c. 1185. In 1200 a fire destroyed much of what remained of the Romanesque cathedral and most traces of the original Romanesque cathedral were removed in remodelling after the fire. The three bays chapel was built in c. 1302 and the windows were opened up in c. 1370. The cathedral was much embellished in the 15th century in the Flamboyant Gothic style, including the top of the Saint Romain tower. In 1514 the wooden spire was destroyed by fire. The central tower was rebuilt and made taller following the fire and it became a lantern tower, with a spire that reached 132 m. This spire was destroyed by another fire in 1822, and the spire that stands there now is the result of a competition for designs.

The cathedral was badly damaged during WWII.  It took a direct hit which barely missed supporting pillars but did extensive interior damage. Soon after the St Romain tower caught fire during another bombing and the bells in the tower melted. The cathedral was only just saved from falling down completely and was rebuilt in the following years.

Rouen Cathedral is the burial place of Henry the Young King, the heart of Richard I, Rollo the first Duke of Normandy and the re burial place of Empress Matilda.

Source: Rouen Cathedral Booklet. For more information http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/rouen-cathedral

Rouen Cathedral

Rouen Cathedral inside

25. Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral

Building: Foundation stones were laid in 1220 and the three eastern chapels were the first parts to be completed. The main body of the cathedral was finished for consecration in 1258, but the whole project wasn’t complete until c. 1266. The tower and spire were added between 1300 and 1320, it stands at 123m, and since the 16th century has been the tallest spire in England. The original builders had not intended to include the tower and the spire and they began to bear down on the remainder of the building by the mid 14th century pushing columns out of alignment. So a process of reinforcement including buttresses, iron ties and strainer arches was begun. The eastern end of the cathedral including several chapels was reconstructed in the 15th century. The cathedral suffered during the English Civil war with damage to the bell tower, significant damage to the cloisters, which were used to house dutch prisoners, and lead stolen from the roof. It suffered less than some of the other cathedrals though and was refurbished during the Restoration. The cathedral was heavily remodelled during the 1700s including the destruction of what remained of the bell tower and the removal of two porches. The interior was significantly remodelled as well with the levelling of much of the floor for a new altar, the removal of medieval glass and the white washing or removal of medieval wall paintings. It was remodelled again in the 1800s and 1900s.

Salisbury Cathedral holds one of only 4 remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. It is currently housed in the chapter house and can be viewed there.

It is also the burial place of William Longsword. Illegitimate son of King John and Earl of Salisbury. Some of  his original tomb remains in wood.

Source: http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/history/new-start-building-cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral Salisbury cathedral inside

26. St David’s

Saint David’s Cathedral

Building: St David’s was founded as a monastery in c. 601 after St David died, but the present cathedral was begun in 1181. In 1220 the central tower collapsed. The building was then damaged by an earthquake in c.1247. The Holy Trinity Chapel was built in the 16th century, the nave roof and the ceiling and were reconstructed in the same time period. Much of the building was damaged during the English Civil War. The west front was rebuilt in c. 1793. The cathedral was restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The nave is the oldest surviving part of the cathedral. It’s built in Transitional Norman style. The wooden ceiling was built in the mid 16th century.

St David’s is the site of the shrine of St David. It has been a place of pilgrimage since the 600s and remains so today.

St David’s is also the burial place of Gerald of Wales, the famous chronicler of both Wales and Ireland, he campaigned to be Bishop of St David’s, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Source: http://www.stdavidscathedral.org.uk/index.php?id=679

St David's Cathedral

St David's Cathedral inside

27 . Waterford

Christchurch Cathedral

Building: It is quite plain that the building standing on this site now is not a medieval cathedral. The current cathedral was built in 1773 after the old cathedral was deemed to need replacement. The city corporation felt that the Norman cathedral was old fashioned and wanted a new modern cathedral so they petitioned the bishop, telling him that the old cathedral was too run down. Tradition has it that rubble was dropped strategically near the bishop when he visited to convince him that the cathedral needed replacing. He agreed in 1773. However in a testament to the Norman masons and a fairly clear sign that the cathedral was not falling down, the cathedral was so strong that it had to be blown up with gunpowder rather than just pulled down. The current building is a reasonably unusual, for a cathedral,  neo-classical Georgian style which was immensely in fashion when this cathedral was built.

The medieval cathedral which stood on this site before it was, quite possibly unnecessarily, blown up dates originally to 1096 when it was built by the recently converted Vikings.

For me the main point of interest is that it was in this early cathedral that Richard Strongbow and Princess Aoife were married in 1170. Strongbow was one of the Normans whom King Diarmait Mac Murchada invited over to Ireland to reclaim his kingdom of Leinster. He promised Strongbow his daughter in marriage if he came, as well as the chance to inherit the kingdom. Strongbow was one of the first of the Normans in Ireland and they never left. Thus Mac Murchada’s legacy is somewhat mixed. Strongbow and Aoife were also the parents of Isabel de Clare and thus the parents in law of William Marshal. Strongbow died in c. 1176, ultimately leaving Isabel as one of the greatest heiresses of her time.

The Normans also significantly rebuilt the cathedral in 1210 and continued to add to it until it was blown up in the pursuit of fashion in 1773.

Source: http://christchurchwaterford.com/heritage/

Christ church cathedral waterford

Christ church cathedral waterford inside

28. Winchester

Winchester Cathedral

Building: A Saxon cathedral was begun on this site in c. 648 but was slowly replaced by the Norman Cathedral and finally demolished in 1093 when the old and new building converged. It is possible that there was the intention to later rebuild and extend the western structure in a more ‘modern style’ but the black death in 1348, which halved the population of Winchester and the population of monks, put a stop to any ambitious rebuilding plans. In the late 14th century the three west porches and the great west window were created to close off a cathedral that had been truncated by necessity. The nave was also dramatically refurbished in the Gothic style in the early 1400s, though some romanesque elements remain.

The Holy Sepulchre chapel by chance retains some of the original 12th century wall paintings depicting the entombment of Christ. The crypt is also an interesting feature of the cathedral as it is flooded for much of the year and has been so since the beginnings of the cathedral. The water comes up through a well behind the high altar as well as through the actual floor of the crypt.

Winchester Cathedral has seen a number of important events. William Rufus was brought there after he was ‘accidentally’ shot dead in the New Forest. His remains lie in mortuary chests in the cathedral along with, probably, those of King Canute. Henry IV and Joan of Navarre were married in the cathedral as were Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Henry III may have been baptised there, he was born in the castle, and the ill fated Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, certainly was.

The Puritans did extensive damage to the cathedral when they came through, they stole all the treasures and used the bones of kings and prelates to break the main windows.

Winchester Cathedral is also the site of the Winchester Bible, a fantastically decorated illuminated manuscript commissioned by Bishop Henry of Blois, the younger brother of King Stephen, and dating to the early 12th century. It is four volumes and was worked on for twenty years by scribes and illustrators.

The cathedral is also the burial place of Jane Austen

Source: Winchester cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9781857593990

For more information: http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

Winchester cathedral

Winchester cathedral inside

29. York

York Minster

Building: The building of the Norman cathedral began in 1080. The cathedral was then extended in 1160 with a new eastern arm. The main massive rebuilding project began in 1120 with the rebuilding of the south transept in Early English Gothic style. This rebuilding project continued over a number of years. The north transept was completed in 1253, the chapter house in 1290, the nave in 1338, the lady chapel in 1373, the east end in 1420 and the central tower in 1465. The building was consecrated as the minster in 1472. The nave roof and the bell towers were badly damaged by fire in the 1840s and in 1984 the south transept roof was destroyed by fire.

One of the better known elements of York Minster is the quire screen with its fifteen kings. It was built in c. 1450 and contains sculptures of the fifteen Kings of England from William the Conquerer until Henry VI. On a side note a duplication of the screen as part of a side board can be seen in St Paul’s cathedral in Melbourne Australia.

Underneath the cathedral are the remains of the Roman Principia where it is possible Constantine was proclaimed emperor in CE 306.

Source: York Minster Information Booklet. ISBN: 9781907750274

For more information: https://www.yorkminster.org/learning/school-visits/activities-amp-resources/york-minster-fact-sheets.html

York Minster

York Minster inside

Round Towers of Ireland

These structures have always fascinated me.

They were usually built sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries. They were generally part of monasteries and while they were built to stand alone some have been incorporated into later buildings. They are surprisingly uniform in design with circumferences at the base usually between 14 and 17 m and wall thickness from 0.9m and 1.7m. They also almost all have doors raised above the ground at least 3 m and they have at least four windows at the top, each of which often faces a cardinal point, along with more windows at lower levels in the tower. Most stand at close to 100 feet. There is a possibility that the dimensions were determined by the role of certain numbers in christian theology. They also had several levels connected by ladders. Additionally it is worth noting that the surviving conical tops were often reconstructed in later time periods.

Debate still continues as to their purpose. It is possible that they were simply bell towers, part of the system of the call to prayer with the height made necessary by the size of the ecclesiastical sites. They may have also been symbols reaching towards the glory of God and illustrating the importance of the ecclesiastical site, conveying messages of spiritual and temporal power. There is also an argument, though currently thought of as a little less likely, that they were watch towers and were part of defence systems. They may have been built partly as a response to Viking and other attacks. The monks would have been able to climb in, store their treasures, burn the stairs to the door, keep the raiders out and possibly ring bells from the top of the tower to call for assistance. Essentially no one is absolutely certain as to their purpose. It is also plausible that there were multiple purposes, combinations of the possibilities listed above.

They are immense structures though, the tallest at Kilmacduagh stands at 102 feet and is on a slight lean. They are beautiful and a testament to the ability of their builders as there are over thirty still standing in varying states of repair across Ireland.

Below you can see examples from all around Ireland of these beautiful and truly intriguing buildings.

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Glendalough Round Tower built between 900 and 1200.

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Glendalough Round Tower.

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St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. Built c. 1111.

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View from St Canice’s  Round Tower.

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Interior of St Canice’s  Round Tower. It’s one of the only Round Towers you can climb.

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Kilmacduagh Round Tower c. 10th century.

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Kilmacduagh Round Tower.IMG_3586

The taller of Clonmacnoise’s two Round Towers c. 12th century.

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The taller of Clonmacnoise’s two Round Towers.

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The shorter of Clonmacnoise’s two Round Towers c. 12th century.

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Round Tower at Drumlane Abbey c. 10th- 11th century with c. 15th century additions.

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Round Tower at Drumlane Abbey.

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Kells high cross and Round Tower. The Round Tower dates to 10th century.

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Kells Round Tower.

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Monasterboice Round Tower 10th century.

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Monasterboise high cross and Round Tower.

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Donaghmore church and Round Tower 11th-12th century.

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Donaghmore Round Tower

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Lusk church and Round Tower c. 11th century.

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Lusk Round Tower

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Cashel Round Tower c. 11th century.

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Cashel Round Tower.

You can see the astounding similarity in all these towers. They truly stand as a testament to the immense skill of their builders and will, I’m sure, continue to fascinate people well into the future.

For more information see

This truly excellent article by Russell Ó Ríagáin which also investigates the possible influences in the building of the round towers.

https://www.academia.edu/399978/The_Round_Towers_of_Ireland_Date_Origins_Functions_and_Symbolism

For some more general information

http://www.roundtowers.org/

http://www.catholicireland.net/irelands-round-towers/

all the photos are mine.

St Patrick’s Day: The Rock of Cashel.

Seeing as it is St Patrick’s Day… The Rock of Cashel, also known as St Patrick’s Rock, is one of Ireland’s most historic and most spectacular sites. Rock of Cashel It is home to a myriad of history: The 12th century Cormac’s Chapel with truly spectacular surviving wall paintings.cormac's wall painting cashel3 cormac's wall painting cashel4 cormac's wall painting cashel2 cormac's wall painting cashel1 The 13th century Cathedral of St Patrick.   cathel cathedral cashel cathedral A very early 12th century round tower. The inhabitants would hide inside if they were raided. They would take all their valuables into the tower and burn the steps. round tower cashelround tower cashel correct The 15th century Hall of Vicar’s Choral.cashel hallcahsel hall 3cashel hall 2And the 12th Century Cross of St Patrick. There have been repeated stories that the stone at the bottom of the cross was the inauguration stone of the Kings of Cashel. This is, however, unlikely as it is clear that the base stone matches the rest of the cross.  St Patrick's cross The Rock of Cashel was the ancient home of the Kings of Eóganacht and it was there that, according to tradition, St Patrick baptised the grandsons of the King. According to legend St Patrick accidentally put the point of his crozier through the foot of Óengus, one of the grandsons, but Óengus thought it was part of the ritual so he stayed silent. The Eóganacht lost Cashel to the Dál Cais in the 10th century and in 1101 Muircheartach Ua Briain, King of Cashel gave the Rock to the Church. This succeeded in both confirming his position as a true son of the Church as well as ensuring that the Eóganacht could never reclaim their ancestral home. The Rock of Cashel is a beautiful place that is inextricably linked with St Patrick. There is an immense concentration of history on the one rock. However when I was there, dodging the bus loads of tourists, it is Cormac’s Chapel in particular that truly stood out. The wall paintings are amongst the finest I have seen anywhere. For more information see. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/media/NEW%20Rock%20of%20Cashel_3.pdf The photos are all mine.

Marriage Alliances 1180-1250: Part 4 Isabel de Clare.

One of the most interesting heiresses of the period, not in the least because she was married to William Marshal, was Isabel de Clare. Isabel’s marriage to Marshal typified the incredibly important political role that the marriage of these heiresses played. These marriages were not only used as rewards, they were used to elevate men to real positions of power. In some occasions these men could help to change the face of a country, I would argue that Marshal was one of these and his marriage to Isabel was what gave him the status to have a real political affect.

Isabel herself is a little hard to pin down. In essentials she was the perfect medieval wife possessing of great fortune and very fecund, they had ten children, but she makes her own mark in a variety of interesting ways. While the History of William Marshal can not be taken entirely at face value the sentiment that is expressed throughout the work is that Isabel was actively involved in the rule of domains that were essentially hers.

marriage of aoife and storngbow

The marriage of Marshal and Isabel de Clare as depicted in the modern  Ros tapestry in New Ross in Ireland.

Marshal’s marriage to Isabel de Clare was the most significant elevation in his life. The lands that he gained, the children that he had from the marriage and the qualities of Isabel herself were the building blocks on which Marshal’s status was established. Marriage to Isabel gave Marshal substantial and geographically diverse lands as well as titles and wealth. In comparison, materially, Marshal brought little to the marriage because he was a virtually landless knight who only had one small estate in England and probably the rents of some lands in France. He had amassed considerable wealth however from his prowess on tourney field and he was known and respected by King Richard. Isabel gave Marshal lands in England, Ireland, Wales and what is now France and these lands gave Marshal both wealth and authority.[1]  Marshal’s marriage to Isabel mean that he made an indelible mark on her lands, not the least in Ireland. The affect Marshal had on these Irish lands illustrates just how much political change the marriage of an heiress could generate.

medieval irelandjpeg

 

Ireland under the Normans. You can see Leinster, Marshal’s lands, on the right.

David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284, London: Penguin Books, 2004, p. xx.

 Isabel’s Irish lands came to her from her father Earl Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, who had gained them by force, and through her mother Aoife, the daughter and heiress of King Dermot MacMurchada of Leinster who was deposed as king in 1166.[1] Strongbow was a leader in a force spearheaded by English lords who won Leinster back for King Dermot. They were given permission to do so by their king Henry II in a letter recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis c. 1166. This was the beginning of the English occupation in Ireland.[2] The rewards Dermot gave Strongbow in return for his services were recorded in the relatively contemporary poem The Song of Dermot and the Earl: his daughter Aoife in marriage and his kingdom after his death. Dermot died in 1171.[3]

 

Diarmut grave

 

Dermot’s grave in Ferns, Ireland.

Strongbow died in 1176 leaving a son and daughter too young to inherit and so Leinster was in the hands of the Crown until Strongbow’s son came of age. The son, Gilbert, died as a minor in 1185 and thus Isabel de Clare inherited everything. Marshal on marrying Isabel gained lordship of her entire estate.[4] Trouble could be expected from the local Irish population who were not likely to welcome a new overlord. These peoples included the English lords who had been settled there for more than a decade and the original Irish lords. Marshal faced an uphill challenge in controlling and developing Leinster and it was one at which he certainly succeeded

On taking possession of Leinster Marshal sent deputies but did not go himself until c. 1201, and then only for a brief visit. The Irish Annals found in The Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin recorded that Marshal was in Ireland c. 1201.

st mary's dublin

All that remains of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin.

They said that he came in a storm and, in thanks to God for his survival on the unforgiving Irish Sea, he founded the abbey of Tintern Parva.[5]

tintern parva

Tintern Parva on the Hook Head Peninsula in Ireland.

ship on the way to ireland

Depiction of the near disaster on the Irish Sea from the Ros Tapestry.

Marshal returned to Ireland in c. 1207 and faced rebellion, mainly from Meyler Fitz Henry. Fitz Henry was one of the original settlers, a bastard grandson of Henry I and had been appointed Justiciar of Ireland, ruler in the king’s absence, by King John. He was tenant in chief of some small fiefs, most of which he held from Marshal. Fitz Henry and Marshal were in repeated conflict and King John involved himself in Fitz Henry’s favour. Fitz Henry led many battles against Marshal’s lands both when Marshal was in Ireland and when he was not.[6] As can be seen in two charters from King John in 1216 Marshal ultimately managed to prevail and found his way back to John’s favour with Fitz Henry disgraced. The first granted Marshal Fitz Henry’s fees, a form of rent or tax, in Marshal’s own lands. The second said that if Fitz Henry should die or take the habit Marshal was to receive Fitz Henry’s fees in the Justicary’s jurisdiction, which effectively disinherited Fitz Henry’s son.[7]

As well as exercising control Marshal was responsible for developments such as the port town of New Ross. Marshal began New Ross, which still exists today, in c. 1207.[8] Once it was established, Marshal set about making it a viable port town. When he was back in favour with King John, c. 1212, Marshal negotiated to ensure that shipping could continue through Waterford and onto New Ross. Waterford was the main port and the Crown had controlled it since 1171.[9] Marshal needed his own port and New Ross suited well because of its deep harbour, river access to the heart of Leinster and links with nearby lordships.[10]

river new ross

 The Barrow river in New Ross.

New Ross is only one of the building and consolidation projects that Marshal undertook in his Irish lands during his lordship. He established other towns and also built a number of castles. He made settlements on the edges of nearby counties, retook land that had been previously lost and established monastic foundations and built a lighthouse which still stands today.

lighthouse

 Marshal’s lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula.

ferns castle irland

Ferns Castle which Marshal also built.

Marshal also took over lands that had lacked any kind of central authority because the Crown had run them for many years from a distance.[11] Marshal managed to establish a strong and stable lordship, despite the fact that he was so caught up in English affairs. This administrative skill ensured that he maintained his position as Lord of Leinster, as well as his other lands, and that he was sufficiently influential and experienced to become first the Earl of Pembroke, a title which he came to through right of Isabel, under King John in 1199 and then Regent in 1216.

IMG_5435

Pembroke Castle in Wales.

When Marshal married Isabel de Clare he became one of the most influential barons of his time because the marriage laws meant he became ruler of everything that was hers. When it came to marriage, a woman’s lineage, her family and connections, were as important as her lands. In Marshal’s case through Isabel he gained the physical lands themselves but also the eminence of her background as the daughter of an earl and the granddaughter of a King of Ireland.

Lineage and land were not all that Marshal gained from his marriage because the couple also had ten children, five sons and five daughters, all of who survived to adulthood.[12] All five daughters married influential and high ranking noblemen and only the youngest, Joan Marshal, was unmarried when her father died.[13] This gave Marshal alliances in a variety of noble families, another use for heiresses, and helped to give him the support he needed to stay in power even when he was out of favour with King John. It is due to his eldest son William that his memory survives today in such detail because it was he who commissioned the History. Marshal achieved what eluded many prominent landholders of his time because he had five sons thus having multiple heirs. When Marshal died his authority and legacy seemed safe and his position solidified, which must have made reaching the top of his society seem worthwhile because he had been able to protect all his family and to pass on what he created secure in the knowledge of its survival. Success in this time was intended to be dynastic rather than just personal. Unfortunately this was not to come to pass because, although Marshal never knew it, his sons all died childless and his lands were dispersed.[14]

 

Chepstow Castle Wales

Chepstow Castle which Marshal gained from marriage to Isabel. He also built significant proportions of it.

Children, lineage and land aside, Isabel as a person and the role she played in the marriage and thus in Marshal’s ascent is much harder to define but just as vital and fortuitous. Isabel came to the marriage probably in her late teens while Marshal was in his early forties. Despite the age difference by all accounts she was an active participant in the marriage and in the governing of the lands. If she had not been it is unlikely that Marshal would have succeeded so well in holding together his disparate domains. She was not only his entrée into the high aristocracy, but her support was important to the retention of his authority. There may have been no legal repercussions if Isabel had not supported Marshal, but the people he ruled were her vassals and would have been more likely to rebel against their new untried lord without Isabel’s support.

Marshal trusted Isabel and her abilities enough to leave her in an administrative position in Ireland c.1207 during the fragile military and political situation, when King John forced him back to England. Before returning to England in c. 1207 the History reports that he said to his men.

My Lords, here you see the countess whom I have brought here by the hand into your presence. She is your lady by birth, the daughter of the earl who graciously, in his generosity, enfieffed you all, once he had conquered the land. She stays behind here with you as a pregnant woman. Until such time as God brings me back here, I ask you all to give her unreservedly the protection she deserves by birthright, for she is your lady, as we well know; I have no claim to anything here save through her.[15]

While it is very unlikely that he spoke these exact words the sentiment is clear. Isabel was Marshal’s key to ruling.

Isabel was a potent symbol to Leinster. She was the daughter of the Princess of Leinster and the granddaughter of its last king, which would have pleased the Irish lords. She was the daughter of Richard Strongbow who had been responsible for establishing many of current English lords, or at the least their fathers, in their lands in Leinster and because she was pregnant she represented the future of the lordship. By leaving her behind Marshal had a reasonable chance that many of his lords would cleave to her and thus his cause, which would leave him free to deal with King John.

Isabel proved a very able defender of Marshal and their lands in Ireland. Almost as soon as Marshal left, she found herself embroiled in war and by 1208 she was besieged in Kilkenny castle and “she had a man let down over the battlements to go and tell John of Earley that it was the very truth that she was besieged in Kilkenny.”[16] John of Earley came and Isabel’s men were victorious. It was also Isabel with whom Meyler Fitz Henry first made peace and it was recorded in History that “he [Fitz Henry] had made peace first with the countess and then with the earl’s men, and … he had given his son Henry as a hostage for his inheritance.”[17] Isabel was very much in command of the defence of her lands even if she could not physically lead men. Isabel was a unifying figure because of her lineage and without her presence in Ireland and her willing participation Marshal could have easily lost Ireland while he was trapped at John’s court.

kilkenny

 Kilkenny Castle as it is today.

Defending her lands was not Isabel’s only involvement because she was also engaged in their creation and improvement. Marshal took the fact that his only claim to the lands was through Isabel very seriously because he made many developments in Leinster with charters that had Isabel’s ‘counsel and consent’ recorded on them.[18] According to Cóilín Ó Drisceoil there is a tradition that Isabel had been heavily involved with making the decision to locate the foundation of the town of New Ross on the Wexford bank of the Barrow River. This was not necessarily the most practical bank on which to build a town, as it was steep and required the building of one of the longest bridges in medieval Ireland. It was perfect however from a political point of view because Wexford was the centre of the former Kingdom of Leinster.[19] The earliest written mention of the tradition of Isabel’s involvement in New Ross’s foundation was in the 1607 work Britannia by William Camden.[20] Isabel understood the political imperatives in building a new city and made sure that they were carried out correctly. She also helped to ensure that Marshal remained lord of all their other lands as well because unlike other noble wives she commonly travelled with him throughout their domains and was involved in their governance. She was the symbol by which Marshal governed as well as an active participant.

st mary's New ross

 St Mary’s Abbey which Marshal and Isabel built in New Ross.

Marshal and Isabel’s match seems to have become one of love. This was exemplified by the way Isabel behaved during and after Marshal’s prolonged death. Marshal first began to fall ill around the end of January 1219 and it took him until midday on May 14th 1219 to actually die.[21] A very moving picture of Isabel just after his death was painted in History “whilst mass was being sung it was observed that the countess could not walk without danger of coming to grief, for her heart, body, her head and limbs had suffered from her exertions, her weeping and her vigils.”[22] This was a final testament to a woman who had stood strongly by Marshal throughout much of his life and his protracted death and had continued to love him. Isabel died only a year later and was buried at Tintern Abbey in Wales.

temple churchIMG_3419

The Temple Church in London where Marshal was burried and his effergy.

tinturn abbey

Tintern Abbey in Wales where Isabel was burried, no trace of her burial remains.

Marshal was given Isabel as a reward and as a way of binding a skilled warrior and an admired man to the new King Richard I in 1189. The authority bestowed on him by this land and the wealth he acquired through marriage meant that he had the ability to make an indelible mark on England. When King John died in 1216 he left a country in turmoil with many of the country’s barons in rebellion. The then approximately 70 year old Marshal was made Regent for the nine year old Henry III and under his direction the country was brought back from the brink and Henry III’s kingship saved. The situation was dire enough to prompt Marshal to declare, according to the History, when he assumed the Regency that “if all the world deserted the young boy, except me, do you know what I would do? I would carry him on my shoulders and walk with him thus,” “ and never let him down from island to island, from land to land.” [23] Marshal was the head of the government who defeated the rebellious barons and the French Prince Louis, later Louis VIII, who was the barons’ candidate for the throne of England.[24] Marrying wards to loyal followers as rewards was a long held practice and one that continued. Much of the time it had little overall effect, however on occasion it elevated a man such as Marshal to a prominent position in society which enabled them to have a far-reaching consequences on the political situation, often in multiple countries.

This will for the moment be the end of my series of noble marriages. I may come back to it at a later date.

All the photos, obviously baring the map at the beginning, are mine.

 

[1] Catherine A. Armstrong, William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, Kenneshaw: Seneschal Press, 2006, pp. 60-61.

[2] Giraldus Cambrensis, The Conquest of Ireland, (trans.) Thomas Forster, Cambridge: Parenthesis Publications, 2001, p. 13.

[3] Anonymous, The Song of Dermot and the Earl, (ed.) & (trans.) Goddard Henry Orpen, Oxford: the Clarendon Press, 1892, pp. 19-27.

[4] Armstrong, Earl of Pembroke, p. 77.

[5] John T. Gilbert, (ed.) Chartularies of St Mary’s Abbey Dublin with The Register of its House at Dunbrody and Annals of Ireland, Volume II, London: Longman and Co, 1884, pp. 307-308.

[6] Sidney Painter, William Marshal: Knight Errant, Baron and Regent of England, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1933 pp. 145-146.

[7] H.S Sweetman, (ed.) Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland, 1171-1251, London: Longman and Co, 1875, p. 106.

[8] Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, “Pons Novus, villa Willielmi Marescalli: New Ross, a town of William Marshal” in John Bradley & Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, Dublin: Four Courts Press, pp. 8-9. A note about this particular text. I am unsure what is happening with the publication of this text. I was very kindly sent advanced chapters and given clear permission to use them for reference in my thesis. I feel that as the sections of this post in which I am using this information are almost verbatim from my thesis that this permission should extend to this post. I am endeavouring to discover what has happened to the publication of this book, but it seems as if it may have actually fallen through, I’m not sure. I still think the information is worth including though.

[9] Sweetman, (ed.) Ireland, p. 99.

[10] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 10-11.

[11] Adrian Empy, “The Evolution of the Demesne in the Lordship of Leinster: the Fortunes of War or Forward Planning?” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 36-38.

[12] T.L Jarman, William Marshal: First Earl of Pembroke, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1930, p. 99.

[13] Anonymous, History of William Marshal, (ed.) AJ. Holden, (trans.) S. Gregory & (notes.) David Crouch, Volume II, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002. pp. 410-411.

[14] Matthew of Westminster, The Flowers of History: Especially as they Relate to the Affairs of Britain from the Beginning of the World to the year 1307, (ed.) & (trans.) C.A. Yonge, Volume II, London: AMS Press, 1968 , pp. 257-258.

[15] History, Volume II, pp. 177-179.

[16] History, Volume II, p. 193.

[17] History, Volume II, p. 195.

[18] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp.11-12.

[19] Ó Drisceoil, “New Ross” in Bradley & Ó Drisceoil, (eds) William Marshal and Ireland, pp. 9-11.

[20] William Camden, Britannia, (trans.) Phillemon Holland, at http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/cambrit/irelandeng1.html#ireland1, accessed 05/12/14.

[21] David Crouch, William Marshal, Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 2nd ed, London: Pearson Education, 2002, pp. 138-140.

[22] History, Volume II, p. 453.

[23] History, Volume II, p. 287.

[24]D.A Carpenter, The Minority of Henry III, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990, pp. 17-64.