New research reveals location of original St Canice's Cathedral

Experts have uncovered the position of the original St Canice's Cathedral which existed until the Normans pulled it down almost 800 years ago to make way for the present building.

New research to be published in the next few weeks shows the old St Canice's was built on the east side of the round tower closest to the River Nore. The building appears to have been substantial and may have been similar to the famous Romanesque churches at Cashel and Ardmore.

The Normans demolished the original church in the late 12th century to cow local residents. The magnificent cathedral that stands to this day was then constructed to impress on locals the extent of Norman power.

The original cathedral and palace were lost from memory and their whereabouts was a mystery for almost 800 years. But now, through the use of modern technology, they have been rediscovered in a Heritage Council-funded project carried out by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. The technique used was called ‘geophysical survey', which employs sophisticated instruments to produce an X-ray like image of what lies beneath the ground. It is particularly adept at finding the remains of long-buried buildings. At St Canice's, both the graveyard and interior of the cathedral were investigated by the geophysics team of M. Gowan & Co. Ltd. This survey revealed that the previous cathedral was positioned on the East side of the round tower.

Sections of an old structure discovered during the nineteenth century under the chancel can now most probably be identified with he palace of the kings of Ossory. This was also quite a substantial stone edifice and its position beside the Cathedral was undoubtedly hugely symbolic and again strikingly similar to the Rock of Cashel. Was St Canice's to Ossory what the Rock of Cashel was to Munster.

There were other interesting discoveries also: the lost burial vault of the Ormonde Butler of Kilkenny Castle was revealed beneath the high altar and burials apparently associated with the former cathedral were exposed around the round tower.

Courtesy of the Kilkenny People
November 2004