Early History

Ireland is a country of ruins and Tipperary has some of the finest, mute witnesses to a violent past.  In the south of the county, within a short distance of each other, are the Rock of Cashel, an array of ecclesiastical buildings; Cahir Castle, a Butler stronghold and largely restored in the 19th century; Athassel  the large-scale ruins of an Augustinian Priory, burial place of the founder of the Bourke family in Ireland.  Fethard is one of the best surviving walled towns in Ireland and Holy Cross, a Cistercian foundation connected with the O’Brien kingship of the region.  In the 1970s, Holycross was rescued from its ruined status and is today one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland.

These are mainly medieval remains but Tipperary also has some fine remnants of the early church.  This is not just a reference to ruined buildings.  In 1980, not far from Cashel, on the site of an ancient ecclesiastical foundation, five buried objects were found, the most famous of which is now known as the Derrynaflan Chalice and is in the National Museum.  In Trinity College in Dublin is a small beautifully illustrated gospel in a wonderfully wrought case.  Called the Book of Dimma, after its scribe, this artwork was created in the Abbey of Roscrea. 

The village of Lorrha in the extreme north of the county was once an important ecclesiastical site and still contains the remains of some 8th century high crosses.

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