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Saint Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland


St. Canice's Cathedral was established in 1202 by Anglo-Normans on the site of an earlier monastic settlement. They finished construction in or around 1285.

The cathedral has been renovated a few times. The first occasion in 1332 quickly followed a flawed attempt to repair the roof. William Outlawe was the son of the rich and powerful Alice Kyteler, Kilkenny's famed "witch." He was implicated on a lesser charge. In penance, he would re-roof the cathedral with lead.

He apparently used too much lead, and whethr an accident or an act of sabotage, the central tower collapsed.

Another renovation was imperative after Oliver Cromwell raided Kilkenny, which fell in 1650. He busted up the cathedral, and used it to stable his horses. That was after he'd disintered all the bodies and put them elsewhere.

Inside the cathedral, there are memorials of many sorts from different dates placed about the walls and floors, and tombs below-level. There are five above-floor tombs of particular beauty, topped with lifesize black limestone carvings of the deceased. On the side approached, each of these is polished along the arm and side of the face, from people touching them.

A history of St. Canice's Cathedral ...

Although the bodies that Cromwell exhumed were too defiled for re-interment, there are bodies in the "Cox vault," under the dome at the center of the cross-shape building, where two black limestone squares in the floor are labeled as vaults-->. In the one labeled "Cox," some bodies remain. The attendant didn't say why Cromwell didn't remove them, but they must have been buried there later.

In any case, the information is forthcoming. [This was in 2003.] It is illegal to open a tomb without a special government decree, except to bury somebody else. And there's one left. He is alive, and residing in the United States. He will return to Ireland and be interred at St. Canice's, in the Cox tomb, when he dies. Then we will know how many others are in there.


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