Thursday, May 21, 2009

Project 365: Day 140 -- The Round Tower, The Cathedral & The Rock of Cashel

This morning, we continued exploring Kilkenny. There's a cemetery across the street from our B&B, and we found some partial church ruins in the village. I love photographing the Celtic Crosses. The meanings and history of the Celtic Cross is varied and colorful. Some say the cross is a symbol of eternity that emphisizes the endlessness of God's love. Others will say it's a pagan symbol from the ancient Druid religion. There is a legend of how St. Patrick when preaching to some soon-to-be converted heathens was shown a sacred standing stone that was marked with a circle that was symbolic of the moon goddess. Patrick made the mark of a Latin cross through the circle and blessed the stone making the first Celtic Cross. Regardless of the actual truth, I find the symbols a very interesting photographic subject, and they are everywhere in Ireland.

Every morning, you will find all the empty kegs out in the street or ally near the pubs, to be picked up and replaced with full kegs.
In Ireland, these narrow alleys are called slips. This particular slip was historically where merchants set up their stand to sell butter, so now it is known as the Butter Slip.
One of the Cathedrals in Kilkenny...
Among other things, we went to the cathedral on the far end of town. This cathedral has a round tower. No one really knows what these towers were used for, but there are a number of them in Ireland, 3 in Scotland, and on on the Isle of Man. Most are in ruins. This one has been preserved and restored enough that tourists can climb to the top, where you can go out onto the roof. This particular Round Tower is 30 meters high, and 4.5 meters in external diameter. The doorway is 2.7 meters about the ground. The best age estimates are that it was completed between 700 & 1100 A.D. The Cathedral of St. Canice next to the tower was built during the 13th century. For a small fee, paid to one elderly gentleman named Noel, Kelly and I were allowed to enter the tower and climb to the top. This was no easy feat. The tower is so narrow inside, and the ladders so steep, that the climb is quite precarious. But the view from the top--assuming you aren't crounched down, clinging to the railing, having a panic attack--is spectacular. (And yes, I was the one having the panic attack while Kelly used my camera to take these photos.)

Another Celtic Cross in the cemetery at the Cathedral of St. Canice. As we were leaving the Cathedral, an elderly Irishman struck up a conversation with us. We didn't catch his name, but he called us "Yankee-doodles," and when he heard we were heading to Killarney and Kenmare, told us the roads to Killarney were good and fast, but the road to Kenmare was not. He was a true Irishman, whose thick accent indicated that perhaps Gaelic was his first language. Once on the verge of extinction, the language of Ireland is now being taught in all the schools as a requirement. Most signs are in both Gaelic and English, and some of the newscast are in Gaelic. Though we had to ask this gentleman to repeat himself several times, he was very interesting to talk with.
Another alley, or slip, in Kilkenny...
This ruin was in a farmer's field along the way to Cashel. I photographed it from the moving car, so I have no idea of it's history.
Our next stop was Cashel, just about half an hour from Kilkenny. This is the Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phadraig) also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock. The Rock of Cashel served as the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. Few remnants if any of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. According to local lore, the Rock of Cashel originated from Devil's Bit, a mountain 30 km north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel.

Once again, there was a cemetery on the Rock, and it was filled with Celtic Crosses.

This cemetery I photographed from the moving car as we drove through a village on the way to Kilarney.
We decided to drive all the way to Kenmare this afternoon, and the road from Killarney was not fast, just as we had been told. However, the views were spectacular--if you aren't having another panic attack in the passenger seat while your husband drives that tiny little car on those narrow, winding roads on the edge of a freakin' cliff! So sorry, no photos of the views--I was barely able to open my eyes, and was not able to let go of the handle above the door.

Once we arrived in Kenmare, we found a room at the River Lodge B&B, just a kilometer outside the village. After checking in, we walked down the country lane into the village for dinner. Kelly had a traditional Irish stew, with lamb. He said it was the best he had ever had.
After dinner, we went to a pub called Crowley's. At Crowley's we chatted with the bartender, Peter, and another patron named John. John is a resident of Kenmare, but he's actually English, from Oxford, England. He's a retired banker who now farms and aspires to write books. We conversed at length about Ireland, it's history, it's stories of faeries and magic, and about writing. John allowed me to photograph him before we all retired for the evening.

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