Rock of Ages

By Ernie Witham   |   November 1, 2022
The Rock of Cashel in Ireland can be seen just past the cold and right before the impending storm

It was raining now and blustery. The temperature, which had been hovering around nippy, was heading toward less romantic sounding terms like “freezing my tuchus off.” 

“According to legend,” our guide was saying at a volume that came with weather-related experience, “the Rock originated in a high mountain located around 20 miles north of here called Devil’s Bit.”

I looked at where she was pointing, but all I could see was a bunch of future, ultra-warm, wool sweaters milling about, baa-ing occasionally, while munching on grass so green it looked like it had been Photoshopped.

“It is said that the Rock ended up here when St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, banished Satan from a cave. In a fury, Satan took a bite from the mountain and spat it out at our current location, which is today known as the Rock of Cashel.” 

Wow, talk about an angry tenant. “Shh,” my wife whispered. At least I think it was Pat. Everyone had their hoods up and were huddled together like arctic penguins, as we stood upon the rocky cliff face that rose about 200 feet in the air. 

Our rental car – with its missing hubcap – was parked at the bottom of that 200-foot-high cliff. The left front wheel had lost an argument with a curb shortly after we picked it up at Dublin Airport. We heard you could not rent a car in Ireland if you were over 65. I was okay with that as I was nervous about driving on the left side of the road.

So, when we got to the rental counter, I fully expected them to say, “you are like way too old!” Instead, the friendly gentleman handed me 18 pages of forms to sign, one of which no doubt talked about losing stuff. 

I was doing great on the M5 motorway heading south. Getting the hang of it, being international, ungritting my teeth. Then the GPS took us off toward a small village. “Look out for that curb!” Pat yelled, a bit too late. “Look out for the wall!” she yelled a few seconds later. Somehow, I missed that one or the car might be lying in… 

“…ruins today,” our guide was saying as she pointed behind her. “The castle was originally built in the fifth century, though the structures you see here today are mostly from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.” I took a shaky photo, then upped my camera speed to compensate for the shivering.

Apparently, Saint Patrick traveled to Cashel in about 450 AD to baptize the King of Munster, King Aengus, converting him to Christianity. Unfortunately, when Patrick was ending his ceremony, he thrust his sharply pointed crozier into the ground, but missed slightly, thrusting it into King Aengus’ foot. So much for thy rod and thy staff shall comfort thee. 

“Shh,” Pat – or someone in a gray raincoat – said again, as we walked around the castle ruins toward the ancient graveyard. 

“The rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster until the Norman invasion in the eleventh century, then the Bishops took over, turning it into a cathedral until the sack of 1647 by Oliver Cromwell’s men, who turned it into rubble.” Turns out, Cromwell is not a popular figure in Irish history. 

Still, today you can visit the picturesque remains of the castle, see the round tower from 1100, visit Cormac’s Chapel, see the ancient Celtic cross, and wander through the graveyard. 

“Over here,” the guide continued cheerily, raising her voice a bit to be heard over our chattering teeth and a sound I thought might be thunder, “is Scully’s Cross, one of the largest and most famous crosses at Cashel. It was constructed in 1867 to commemorate Denys Scully, a prominent leader in the cause of Catholic Emancipation.” I took a photo. “Unfortunately, the cross was destroyed by a massive bolt of lightning in 1976 which struck a metal rod running the length of the cross.” We all looked up at the dark gray skies. “Thank you. That concludes the tour.”

Pat and I trudged downhill to the car. “I think I’ll tell the car rental place the front hubcap was struck by lightning. Whataya think?”

“Another myth is born,” said Pat.  


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