Medieval Kilkenny, Ireland

Mrs Bear and I return to Ireland after about five years. This visit is prompted by a cousin who has never been, but always wanted to. While she and hubby are doing a guided tour, we started off in Portugal and will spend a week in County Kilkenny before joining up for a visit to Northern Ireland. On our last visit, we spent the entire time in County Wicklow and had a great time. I commented to Mrs Bear that Ireland has 28 counties … Hence, we needed to make 28 trip to the Emerald Isle. I was only half joking. There is so much to see, drink, and experience, and it never gets old … wet, ht not old.

County Kilkenny was chosen because of our vast holding of Marriott points. We selected a beautiful manor hotel in the countryside about 20 minutes from Kilkenny. So our first couple days centered around visits to The Marble City. Shhhh … Don’t tell anyone, but Kilkenny’s marble is really sandstone. When it gets wet, it turns a very dark color and resembles marble, but …

The centerpiece of Kilkenny is its medieval buildings and history, which includes Kilkenny Castle. Prior to about 1100, Ireland was ruled by a group of chieftains, more than 100 in number. Mrs Bear likened them to America’s Native American tribes. They were constantly fighting each other for possession of wells, hunting grounds, and river control. The Normans invaded in 1100 and, with about 350 knights, easily took control of the entire island. Early towns were established, primarily on trade routes … One of which was Kilkenny. A crude wooden church was built,as well as the beginnings of defensive fortifications.

William Marshal was the younger son of an English lord … And as such, he was not eligible for major inheritances. He became a student of knight horsemanship, and ultimately became a champion jouster. Some called him the best knight ever. This led to appointments as a kind of bodyguard to the royal family, and later, to an arranged marriage that resulted in the acquisition of vast land holdings in England and Ireland. He later was knighted and became the First Earl of Pembroke.

To get ahead of myself a little bit, Marshal’s face was carved into the stone of the rebuilt St Mary’s Church in Kilkenny. Local women, passing by, swore and spit at the image, because they believed it to be Cromwell !!!

Marshal struck a deal with the Church authorities to allow him to build the township of Kilkenny where the wooden church had been standing. He came to this agreement by promising to build a cathedral just outside of his planned township. Marshal then built the castle, homes and shops for a thriving group of merchants, and a smaller St Mary’s Curch within a wall boundary, which when added to the River Nore,l completely encircled the town. This took almost a century and was completed by Marshal’s grandson.

Here is a pic of St. Canice’s Cathedral. Marshal built it outside the walls of Kilkenny in order to avoid political tensions with the Clergy. But this caused a problem for his merchants. They could not worship at the new cathedral because its location in “ Irishtown “ would have lead to mugging and injuries in confrontations with the natives. So St Mary’s Church was built within the walls.

Below are a couple picks from Kilkenny’s Medieval Museum, built on the site of the original St Mary’s Church. The local population also used the abbey as a burial ground, both inside and outside the church itself. The current archeological digs are discovering new artifacts regularly, and a tour of the museum and a walking tour of the remnants of the original buildings and city walls was a treat.

Here are a couple pics of the beautiful stained glass in the Cathedral, in case you don’t want to spend all your time climbing the bell tower. Our guide told us that Monks climbed the tower with provisions and outlasted Viking invaders a few centuries later. The Vikings finally figured out that they could punch a couple holes in the tower and smoke out the Monks.

Finally, here is Mrs Bear having fun by trying to be Mary Poppins by the Castle fountains. A great way to end the post.

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