My husband and I had a trip booked to Ireland in June 2020. Due to Covid, the trip never happened. For a myriad of reasons, it’s a trip that likely won’t happen any time soon. I’ve pulled up my old itinerary, and I’m going to explore as much of this holiday as virtually as I can! Please visit my BLOG page for previous entries.
DAY 11: KILLKENNY
Kilkenny is the anglicised version of the Irish Cill Chainnigh, meaning Cell/Church of Cainneach or Canice. This relates to a church built in honor of St. Canice. Kilkenny was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Ossory and St Canice’s Cathedral stands on a site which has experienced Christian worship since the 6th century. Because Osraige is bounded by major rivers, this area witnessed the establishment of several significant Viking bases on and around the kingdom’s borders in the ninth and early tenth centuries, and the watershed systems provided deep access into Osraige’s interior. The Normans under Strongbow invaded Ireland beginning in 1169, and most of Osraige collapsed under pressure from Norman leader William Marshal.
St Canice’s Cathedral
The present building dates from the 13th century and is the second longest cathedral in Ireland, after St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin that was built around the same time. Beside it stands a 100ft 9th-century “Celtic Christian” round tower. It is one of only three such medieval round towers in Ireland that can still be climbed to the top. The church is dedicated to Cainnech of Aghaboe (515/16–600), also known as Saint Canice. Kilkenny was one of the last parts of Ireland to be converted to Christianity. Tradition asserts that in 597, Cainnech led a Christian force to Kilkenny to eliminate the last bastion of Druidic rule in Ireland. The last Archdruid of Ireland had retired with his Council to a mound in Kilkenny for safety. Cainnech led an army there and overcame them. He founded a monastery near what is now the Church of Ireland’s St. Canice’s Cathedral.
Werewolves of Ossory
Yes, werewolves. The legendary werewolves of Ossory, a kingdom of early medieval Ireland, are the subject of a number of accounts in medieval Irish, English and Norse works. The werewolves were said to have been the descendants of a legendary figure named Laignech Fáelad whose line gave rise to the kings of Ossory. The legends may have derived from the activities of warriors in ancient Ireland who were the subject of frequent literary comparisons to wolves, and who may have adopted lupine hairstyles or worn wolf-skins while they “went wolfing” and carried out raids. Wolves, though now extinct in Ireland, were once numerous; the Irish were said to be plagued by the animals and bred a special type of dog, the Irish Wolfhound, to hunt them.
The medieval Irish work Cóir Anmann (Fitness of Names), which was probably based on earlier traditions, gives an account of a legendary warrior-werewolf named Laignech Fáelad. He was a man that used to go wolfing, i.e. into wolf-shapes, i.e. into shapes of wolves he used to go, and his offspring used to go after him and they used to kill the herds after the fashion of wolves, so that it is for that that he used to be called Laignech Fáelad, for he was the first of them who went into a wolf-shape.
Also…Kilkenny was the site of Ireland’s earliest recorded witch trial, occurring in 1324. The trial involved Dame Alice de Kyteler and her servant Petronella de Meath. Petronella would be the first person recorded in Ireland to be burned alive at the stake for witchcraft, after Dame Alice presumably fled the country. This trial was also one of the earliest recorded witch burnings in Europe and inspires much folklore about the possibility of the ghosts of Alice and Petronella haunting downtown Kilkenny.
Kilkenny Castle built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defenses of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.
The Castle became the seat to a very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde. The family had become wealthy and James bought Kilkenny Castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries. There were other castles under the Butler coat of arms from Wicklow to Tipperary. However, as the cost of keeping these large castles escalated, the family began to sell off the furniture to pay the bills. In the 1930s, the family held a ten day auction of three thousand items. By the 1960s, the sixth Marquess of Ormonde, James Arthur Norman Butler, decided to call it a day and handed over the castle to the people of Kilkenny.
Rothe House is a late 16th-century merchant’s townhouse complex made up of three houses, three enclosed courtyards, and a large reconstructed garden with orchard. Rothe House is the only remaining example of a complete burgage plot in Ireland, and considered to be nationally significant because of the range of original post-medieval features that survive.
St. Francis Abbey
Smithwick’s (pronounced “Smih-dicks“) brewery tour
Smithwick’s is the most consumed ale in Ireland. Smithwick’s Draught is an Irish red ale and as the style suggests, has a red tone. It is produced using hops and roasted, malted barley.
Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny in 1710 by John Smithwick and run by the Smithwick family of Kilkenny until 1965 when it was acquired by Guinness, now part of Diageo. The Kilkenny brewery was shut down in 2013 and production of all Smithwick’s and Kilkenny branded beers moved to Dublin; parts of the old brewery were later converted into a “visitor experience.” The brewery is on the site of a Franciscan abbey, where monks had brewed ale since the 14th century, and ruins of the original abbey still remain on its grounds. At the time of its closure, it was Ireland’s oldest operating brewery.
Time for a taste test!
Next up: Dublin