Cashel

Town Walls/Hackett Effigies

The Rock of Cashel is named after a Caiseal, Irish for stone fort, built on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the town. It was the main stronghold of the Kings of Munster from the late 4th century. A settlement was present at Cashel before the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century. After the invasion a town was developed in typical Norman fashion. The Dominican Priory and Franciscan Abbey were established in the 13th century. A Charter of Murgage was granted to the citizens of Cashel in 1319, by Edward II, for 5 years. During this period the town walls were built to protect the wealthy Anglo-Norman inhabitants from the native Irish.

The irregular shaped walls enclosed an area of about 28 acres. The Rock of Cashel and the two abbeys are not enclosed within the walls, which may account for its irregular shape. In the mid 17th century there were at least five gateways into the town, none of them have survived. We do know the location of the main gateways, over the years some of their names changed several times. Canopy Gate, AKA Upper Gate and Dublin Gate, stood at the top of Bank Street near Ladys Well Street. St Nicholas' Gate, AKA Lower Gate was located on Main Street near the Post Office. Moor Gate was located on Dominic Street close to Cashel Folk Museum. Friar Gate was sited on Friar Street near the Abbeyside junction. The fifth gate, Johns' Gate was located on John Street near the entrance to the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. The Cathedral is probably the best place to begin any tour of the city walls.

A length of the town wall is acting as a boundary wall around the Cathedral graveyard. All the above images were taken in the graveyard. Set into niches in the town wall are four tomb effigies. They are dated to c.1320 and reputedly came from the Hackett chapel of the Franciscan abbey. Sir William Hackett founded the friary in c.1265, it was originally known as Hacketts Abbey. The coffin lid effigies may represent Sir William, his wife and two daughters. The knights armour is similar to the effigy at Kilfane in Kilkenny. The late 18th century Roman Catholic Church of St John, was built on the site of the franciscan abbey on Friar Street. The effigies were moved from the abbey to the Cathedral graveyard in the 18th century. The sarcophagus, or lower part, of the knights tomb can be found in the Vicar's Choral on the Rock of Cashel.

By the middle of the 18th century the walls, which were no longer useful, had fallen into decay. The total circumference of the walls is around 1,600 metres, or about one mile and extensive stretches of the walls still survive. I traced the line of wall around the outside of the cathedral graveyard, up Feehan's Road to Friar Street. It turns north along to Agar's Lane. The lane is named after Archbishop Charles Agar, who built it in 1795 to provide access to the new church on Friar Street. The section of wall in the image above runs north along Roselawn Close, access is via the archway on Friar Street.

Agar's Lane

Modern wall plaque

A small section of the north wall can be found close to the east gable of St Dominic's Priory, see image above. A long section of wall runs south from John Street behind Our Lady's Hospital, and another section can be found behind Cashel Mart on Lower Gate Street. I hope to get access to these last two sections on my next visit to Cashel. A large scale model of the town in the 1640’s is on display in the Heritage Centre/Tourist Office on Main Street. Pictured below is the exterior of the southeast wall, behind the Hackett effigies.

Situated: About eight sections of the wall survive. The easiest section to view is at the Cathedral of John the Baptist, on John Street.

Discovery Map 66: S 0784 4043. Last visit Aug 2019.

Longitude: 7° 53' 4" W. Hacket effigies.

Latitude: 52° 30' 55" N.

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

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