The Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick’s Rock, Cashel
Cashel, resting at the heart of Tipperary’s Golden Vale, is an epicentre of Irish and European heritage, with a history which predates the discovery of America and the New World by over a millennium.
A home to saints, scholars and warrior chiefs, it overlooks a magnificent landscape from atop the world famous Rock of Cashel.
The Dean writes of the Cathedral
“When tourists go to the Cathedral in Cashel they have to accept the fact that it is only part of one huge story. Nearby the Cathedral perimeter walls date back to the 13th century and the 19th century library houses ancient manuscripts and books, while the age of part of the graveyard remains unknown. Always peering at worshippers is the rock of Cashel and Cormac’s chapel. These images occupy many pages in many books throughout the world and we who live in Cashel are surrounded by history with a modern Cathedral as part of the course”.
A History of the Area
Cashel derives its name from Caiseal Mumhan meaning the stone fort of Munster. In the centre of the town is a 1730 mansion, Cashel Palace Hotel. Guinness was first brewed here. It was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce and was once the home of the Protestant Archbishop. There are two Mulberry trees in the gardens dating back to Queen Mary. Quirkes castle (Kearneys castle) a former tower house shows battlements and gargoyles. It is now a hotel. The G.P.A. Bolton Library is situated in the grounds of the Church of Ireland. It houses a rare collection of books and manuscripts. The Town Hall is now the home of Cashel Heritage Centre and also has a museum. On the way to the Rock (St.Patricks Cathedral) is the Dominican Friary it was founded in 1243 it has a beautiful 13th C East window. About a quarter of a mile West of the Rock is a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1266, it is a sister Abbey to Mellifont.
The Bolton Library
Theophilus Bolton was certainly a man of parts, a “doer of the work” as well as an intellectual……………………
Though Bolton was founder, the library’s greatest treasures, however, come from the collection of Archbishop William King of Dublin. He had been Bolton’s mentor, and was said to have been the most learned and widely read man of his time. His best known publication, “De Origine Mali” (1702) provided ideas for Pope’s “Essay on Man”. He had been Bishop of Derry from 1690, after that City’s siege of famous memory, until 1703 when he was made Archbishop of Dublin. His books, then, were mainly gathered in the last quarter of the 17th century, and sometime after King’s death in 1729. Bolton acquired the bulk of his benefactor’s extensive library.
The library was originally housed in the “Long Room” adjoining the Archbishops’ Palace. It suffered some damage from British soldiers quartered there during the 1798 rebellion, but it survived this and other crises of Irish history without further recorded incident. The coming to Cashel in 1824 of Henry Cotton as Archdeacon of the Diocese begins the next chapter in its history.
He had been one of two sub-librarians of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, for nine years, and published his “Typographical Gazetteer” in the year of his coming to Cashel.
He devoted much of his time for the remainder of his long life – he died in 1879 – to writing his many bodies and working for Cashel Library. Becoming alarmed, about 1835, by the plans of the British government to suppress the Archbishopric of Cashel, he encouraged the clergy of the Diocese to erect a building in the precincts of St. John the Baptist’s Cathedral to serve as a library and chapter-house. To its new home – the present one – the library was moved in 1837. The building though plain outside, has a pleasant Georgian-style interior, an appropriate setting for the books …..
(Above, selected extracts from an article at the Cashel Palace Hotel, the former Archbishops’ Palace).
The Rock Cathedral was closed for worship in 1721. Meanwhile the old parish Church of St John was removed and the present Gregorian Cathedral completed in 1784. Its famous Samuel Green organ was built in 1786.
View Dioceses of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory in a larger map