Heritage Buildings: Cormac's Chapel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary

Cromac’s Chapel at Cashel, Co. Tipperary is probably Ireland’s finest Romanesque building.

On the southern side of the summit of the Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary is the church built as a Royal chapel by Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster between 1127 and 1134. The church has a number of Romanesque features such as paired twoers, blind arcading, and recessed arched doorways, rib-vaulting and decorative motifs such as chevrons, pellets and rosettes. The chapel is a cruciform nave and chancel church with two towers and a small rectangular recess running off the chancel to the east. A doorway of two orders gives acess to the north tower from the nave, and a smaller round-headed doorway leads to the spiral staircase in the south tower. The nave has a barrel vault and above this there is a bee-hive vaulted chamber formerly of two-storeys, known as the croft. The north and south walls of the church are decorated with blind arcading. The chancel arch is executed in four orders with a hood-moulding; the groined vault of the chancel with heavy diagonal ribs of half-round section. The pedimented gable of the north porch and north door both have five orders with a hood-moulding and tympanum with a centaur hunting a lion hunting. Frescos that cover the walls and ribs of the chancel have been restored to reveal two layers of painting. The frescos include geometric and floral motifs as well as figurative scenes including the baptism of Christ and possibly Solomon and the Queen of Sheba with the temple of Jerusalem. Externally the church has blind arcading and engaged half-columns. The smaller south tower has the belfry. The larger north tower has a pyramidal stone roof. In the thirteenth century the cathedral of cashel was built against the north tower of the chapel and incorporates its west gable.

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