Cashel, a town in the County Tipperary, Ireland, which is also a Catholic archbishopric and the see of a Protestant bishop. The Rock of Cashel, to which the town below owes its origin, is an isolated elevation of stratified limestone, rising abruptly from a broad and fertile plain, called the Golden Vein. The top of this eminence is crowned by a group of remarkable ruins. This ancient metropolis has lost its importance and most of its inhabitants.
The population is less than 3000. Originally known as Fairy Hill, or Sid-Druim, the “Rock” was, in pagan times, the dun or castle of the ancient Eoghnacht Chiefs of Munster. In Gaelic Caiseal denotes a circular stone fort and is the name of other places in Ireland. The “Book of Rights” suggests that the name is derived from Cais-il, i.e. “tribute-stone”, because the Munster tribes paid tribute on the Rock. Here, Core, the grandfather of Aengus Mac Natfraich, erected a fort, and Cashel subsequently became the capital of Munster. Like Tara and Armagh it was a celebrated court, and at the time of St. Patrick claimed supremacy over all the royal duns of the province, when Aengus ruled as King of Cashel. About 450, Patrick preached at the royal dun and converted Aengus. The “Tripartite Life” of the saint relates that while “he was baptising Aengus the spike of the crozier went through the foot of the King” who bore with the painful wound in the belief “that it was a rite of the Faith“. And, according to the same authority, twenty-seven kings of the race of Aengus and his brother Aillil ruled in Cashel until 897, when Cermgecan was slain in battle. There is no evidence that St. Patrick founded a church at Cashel, or appointed a Bishop of Cashel. St. Ailbe, it is supposed, had already fixed his see at Emly, not far off, and within the king’s dominions. Cashel continued to be the chief residence of the Kings of Munster until 1100. Hence its title, “City of the Kings”. Before that date there is no mention in the native annals of any Bishop, or Archbishop of Cashel. Cormac MacCullinan is referred to, but not correctly, as Archbishop of Cashel, by later writers. He was a bishop, but not of Cashel, where he was king. The most famous man in Ireland of his time, but more of a scholar and warrior than an ecclesiastic, Cormac has left us a glossary of Irish names, which displays his knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and the “Psalter of Cashel”, a work treating of the history and antiquities of Ireland. He was slain in 903, in a great battle near Carlow.
Brian Boru fortified Cashel in 990. Murtagh O’Brien, King of Cashel, in presence of the chiefs and clergy; made a grant in 1101 of the “Rock” with the territory around it to O’Dunan, “noble bishop and chief senior of Munster“, and dedicated it to God and St. Patrick. Then Cashel became an archiepiscopal see, and O’Dunan its first prelate as far as the primate, St. Celsus, could appoint him. At the synod of Kells, 1152, Cardinal Paparo gave a pallium to Donat O’Lonergan of Cashel, and since then his successors have ruled the ecclesiastical province of Munster. In 1127 Cormac MacCarthy, King of Desmond, erected close to his palace on the “Rock” a church, now known as Cormac’s Chapel, which was consecrated in 1134, when a synod was held within its walls. During the episcopate of Donal O’Hullican (1158-82), the King of Limerick, Donal O’Brien, built in 1169 a more spacious church beside Cormac’s Chapel, which then became a chapter-house.
The “City of the Kings” had a full share in the vicissitudes of the times. Maurice; a Geraldine, filled the see from 1504 to 1523, and was succeeded by a natural son of Pierce, Earl of Ormond, Edmund Butler, prior of Athassal Abbey. In addition to the wars between the Irish and English there now arose a new element of discord, the Reformation introduced by Henry VIII. The archbishop shared in the family failings, propensity for plundering and servility to the king. While residing at Kilmeaden Castle he levied blackmail on the traders of the Suir, robbing their boats and holding their persons for ransom. At a session of the privy council held at Clonmel, 1539, he swore to uphold the spiritual supremacy of the king and denied the power in Ireland of the Bishop of Rome. It does not appear that he left the Church. He died 1550 and was buried in the cathedral. Roland, a Geraldine (1553-61), was created archbishop by Queen Mary. After a vacancy of six years Maurice FitzGibbon (1567-78) a Cistercian abbot was promoted to the archbishopric by the pope, and James MacCaghwell was put forward by Elizabeth. Thus began the new religion at Cashel. FitzGibbon, who belonged to the Desmond family, being deprived of his see fled to France and passed into Spain where he resided for a time at the Court. He conferred with the English ambassador at Paris in order to obtain pardon for leaving the country without the Queen’s sanction, and to get permission to return. In this he failed, and going back to Ireland secretly he was arrested and imprisoned at Cork, where he died 1578) after much suffering. On the death of MacCaghwell, Elizabeth advanced Miler MacGrath, a Franciscan, and apostate Bishop of Down, to the See of Cashel. He held at the same time four bishoprics and several benefices, out of which he provided for his numerous offspring. Having occupied the see fifty-two years and wasted its temporalities, he died 1622. His monument in the ruined cathedral bears a strange epitaph written by himself.
Dermod O’Hurley of Limerick, a distinguished student of Louvain and professor at Reims, was appointed (1581) by Gregory XIII. Having labored secretly for two years among his flock, he was discovered and brought before the Lord Justices at Dublin. He suffered cruel tortures rather than take the Oath of Supremacy. He was hanged outside the city (1583). The story of the See of Cashel varies little or more than two centuries following; it is a narrative of struggle and persecution for the old Faith. The roll of its prelates presents men illustrious by learning, wisdom, and piety, as in former days. Meanwhile, on “the Rock” the monuments to the Faith and art of a noble period were yielding to the spoiler and falling to decay. Dr. James Butler 2nd (1774-91), on being appointed settled in Thurles, where the archbishops have since resided. His successor, Archbishop Bray (1792-1820), built a large church in the early part of the nineteenth century, on the site of which Archbishop Leahy (1857-74) erected a splendid cathedral in Romanesque style. It was completed and consecrated in 1879 by Archbishop Croke (1874-1902), and dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. St. Albert (feast January 8), a reputed former bishop, is the patron of the diocese. The Archbishop of Cashel is Administrator of the ancient Diocese of Emly.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE OF CASHEL comprises the Archdiocese of Cashel with the Diocese of Emly and eight suffragan sees: Cloyne, Cork, Kerry, Killaloe, Limerick, Ross, Waterford and Kilfenora. The Bishop of Galway is Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora. Statistics for 1908.—Archdiocese of Cashel and Diocese of Emly: archbishop, 1, parishes, 46, parish priests, 44, administrators, 2, curates, 67, secular clergy, 103, regular clergy, 3, parochial and district churches, 84, houses of regular clergy (Augustinians), 1, theological seminary (at Thurles), 1, college (at Rockwell, Cashel), 1, convents of nuns, 15, with 322 members, monasteries of brothers, 4, with 24 members, Catholic population (1901) 111,185, non-Catholic population (1901) 4659, total 115,844.
J. J. RYAN