Isle of Albion
Ninth Century round tower and medieval cathedral.
Photographed: Wednesday 16th October 2013
Site rating:  

St Canice's Cathedral dates from the 13th century, and is the second longest cathedral in Ireland. Along with the round-tower that sits next to it, it visually dominates the surrounding town of Kilkenny.

The earliest church is believed to have been a Celtic monastic settlement founded some time in the 6th Century. Churches from this period would have been wooden structures, but It is believed that a later stone church may have occupied the site before construction began on the surviving cathedral. Contemporary records are virtually non-existent though, so much that is written about this period is speculative. However, the adjacent round-tower dates back to the 9th Century, which would suggest a site of Christian significance must have existed here at that time.

Work is believed to have started on the present building around 1250AD, continuing up until around 1285AD. In 1332AD, the central tower of the cathedral collapsed, destroying the choir and side chapels. Repairs were carried out, reducing the tower's size and shoring up its foundations. Stone vaulting was added beneath the tower in 1470AD. During the English Civil War, Cromwell's troops inflicted substantial damage upon the cathedral, and it remained roofless and abandoned for twelve years. Further restoration work took place between 1844AD and 1867AD.

St Canice's Cathedral is easily visible from the town of Kilkenny below, and offers an impressive site whilst approaching along the town's winding streets. The building itself is imposing, looking as splendid as the day it was built. Inside, the cathedral maintains a strong medieaval character. I found the most fascinating detail to be the ceiling of the choir, with its fine detail and carved figures. The round-tower is also open at certain times, and is one of only two in Ireland that allows visitors to ascend to the top.