Rock of Cashel
For more than a millennium, the Rock of Cashel, a formidable stronghold rising high above the surrounding plain, has stood sentinel over Tipperary. Legend—and a carved cross—imply an association between St. Patrick and the Rock’s earliest rulers, the kings of Munster, but the ancient fortress wasn’t formally presented to the church until 1101. Officially dissociated from its secular roots, the stronghold proved equally majestic as a center of ecclesiastical power, flourishing as a spiritual high ground until the Cromwellian army laid siege to it in 1647. Still, the architecture from that period largely survives and continues to hold sway over the tourists who besiege the Rock each year. The jewel of the stronghold is undeniably Cormac’s Chapel, considered one of the best examples of 12th-century Romanesque architecture in Ireland. Yet it’s the 90-foot round tower, built in the early 12th century without the use of mortar, that perfectly exemplifies the Rock of Cashel’s dual role as a religious center and medieval fortress.