Around 370 A.D., King Corc built a stone fort on what had been known as the "Fairy Ridge" and established his capital there. The Irish name for the place is "Caiseal," meaning "stone fort." Some years later around 448 A.D., St. Patrick came to Cashel and baptized Munster's king Aengus MacMutfraich, grandson of King Corc. Tradition has it that Patrick accidentally pierced the king's foot with his staff during the ceremony. The King, thinking this was part of the ceremony, remained silent and stood like a granite pillar. King Aengus provided the financial assistance for many of the churches St. Patrick founded over the seven years he remained in Munster. [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel] [http://roundtowers.org/cashel/index.htm]
The Rock of Cashel was originally the residence of the kings of Munster, and site of the royal inauguration of the king's of Munster upon a large stone. Excavations have revealed some evidence of burials and church buildings from the 9th or 10th century, but it was in the early 12th century that the Rock began to be developed into a major Christian center. [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel] It is consider one of the centers for Irish culture along with Armagh and Tara.
Brian Boru was crowned king of Munster at "The Rock" in 977 A.D.. In 1101 A.D., Muirchertach O Briain, king of Munster, gave the Rock of Cashel to the church, ostensibly to keep it from ever falling back into the hands of his opposition, the Eóghanachts (McCarthys). [http://roundtowers.org/cashel/index.htm]
The next building after the Round Tower is "Cormac's Chapel," a magnificent little Romanesque church that still survives today, was begun in 1127 A.D., and consecrated in 1134 A.D., probably for Benedictine monks. The chapel was commissioned by South Munster King Cormac III Mac Cárthaigh It is a very sophisticated structure, unlike most Irish Romanesque churches which are very simple in plan with limited decoration [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel]. The twin towers at either side of the nave and chancel which were decorated by carpenters sent by the Abbot of Regensburg in Germany, with who the kings of Munster were patrons. [http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Tipperary/Rock-of-Cashel.html]
The chapel's interior contains the oldest and most important Roman-esque wall paintings in Ireland. The oldest, dating from about 1134, consist mainly of masonry patterns and can be made out in places on the lower walls. The remaining paintings date from c.1160-70 and are visible on the upper walls and vault. These depict narrative scenes such as the Nativity, and their sophistication suggests the artists were from England or Normandy. The paintings were covered by whitewash at the Reformation (16th century) and remained hidden until the 1980s. [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel]
"Da Vinci's Last Supper was in a similar state and was restored after nearly 500 years of neglect. It's not fanciful to think the same could be done here in Cormac's Chapel, " says Philip Ryan, an artist who lives in Tipperary. [http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/christian-heritage/destinations/republic-of-ireland/tipperary/articles/rock-of-cashel-masterpiece/]
The long choir is elevated at the east end and contains grave slabs dating mostly from the 16th century. The south wall of the choir contains a piscina, sedilia, and wall tomb of the late 16th-century archbishop Miler McGrath, an Episcopalian Bishop appointed by Queen Elizabeth I, and he presided over Cashel Cathedral for fifty years . [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/rock-of-cashel] Limerick's bishop, Desmond O'Hurley wasn't as lucky. Appointed by Pope Gregory XIII, for a few years he went ministering the people in secret until exposed and hanged in 1583 for refusing to take the 'Oath of Supremacy to the Church of England.' [James Conroy, Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area.]
Throughout the structure, it is possible to discern the dates of the decorative elements based on the material used: the original 13th-century work is in sandstone, while later work is in limestone.
After the area was conquered by the Anglo-Normans a gothic cathedral and tower house were constructed. [http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/cashel/cashel-info]
The Hall of Vicars Choral is the entry point to the ecclesiastical enclosure atop the Rock of Cashel. The Hall houses the museum where the original Cross of St. Patrick can be found. The cross is highly eroded, but the form of a bishop - generally recognized as St. Patrick - is depicted on the eastern face, while a slightly clearer depiction of the crucifixion is carved into the western face. The cross sits on a granite pedestal thought to have originally been the coronation stone of the kings of Munster. The interlace on this base is similar to that of the sarcophagus in Cormac's Chapel. [http://roundtowers.org/cashel/index.htm]
The grounds around the buildings are home to an extensive graveyard, which includes a number of beautiful high crosses. The entire plateau atop the rock is walled. Visible from the west side of the Rock, located in the valley, is the desolate ruins of Hore Abbey, a Cistercian foundation of 1272.
Cashel's first Charter was conferred by King Henry III in 1228, and he granted "that vill in frankalmoign to the Archbishop and his successors" with the right to hold an "annual fair at Cashel for eight days." Religious corporations that hold lands in a tenure call 'Frankalmogin," and the holdings and lands are given to them and their successors forever, usually on condition of praying for the soul of the donor and his heirs. Usually the cost was a one-off payment of 300 marks to the Crown. The archbishop of Cashel gained almost exclusive control of the town and its revenues. [http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/cashel/cashel-info]
The cathedral was burnt by Gerald Mór Fitzgerald in 1494, the Great & 8th Earl of Kildare (known as the uncrowned king of Ireland). When required to account for his actions before the English King (Henry VII), he reportedly said that he wouldn't have done it, except that he was certain that his sworn enemy, Archbishop David Creaghe, was inside. [http://roundtowers.org/cashel/index.htm]
The town of Cashel at the foot of the rock was founded by the archbishop sometime before 1218 and a Dominican priory was established in 1243. The present cathedral was erected in the 13th century as well. [http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/cashel/cashel-info]
Cashel, the town, received a murage grant between 1303-07, and a wall was built around the town between 1319-24. Scotsman Edward Bruce halted his army at Cashel where he held a parliament. [http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/cashel/cashel-info]
£3,000. His demands were not met, the people assembled themselves into the church thinking and hoping they would be sparred, but Inchiquin ordered them barricade inside and stack turf around the church and lighted it. Nearly 1,000 town people died. Following the killing the site was plundered for its religious artifacts and even the carriage belonging to the Bishop was stolen. Those items deemed worthless such as statues were smashed or defaced and then the whole town was set alight. It wasn’t until 1749 that the Bishop of Cashel had the remains of the cathedral’s roof removed. When traveling around Ireland one will see many church ruins made so under Cromwell's orders. [http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/cashel/cashel-info] [http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Tipperary/Rock-of-Cashel.html] [http://www.visitireland.com/aboutireland/olivercromwell.asp]