Kilkenny Revisited

Okay. So, Kilkenny was run by ten merchant families. Of those, there were three who were pretty much at the top, and each had a private chapel off the main area of St. Mary’s. This was the private chapel of the Rothe family. Interestingly, instead of religious iconography, this memorial was decorated with all the coats of arms for the Rothes. The only concession to less worldly ideas is a tiny memento mori skeleton right up at the very top.

Last night, after publishing the last blog post, I went out and got some dinner. I walked down the street, back towards the train station, to Matt the Millers1, which I had seen on my walk to the hotel. I had heard they had good food, and there was traditional Irish music that night.

The pub is sort of scattered around several floors of the building, with lots of open ceilings. I wound up in the Loft bar, overlooking the stage where Wallop the Cat were going to be performing.

This is the view from my seat at the rail of the Loft bar. The Tobacco Shop is not a tobacco shop, but a room for private parties. It’s been decorated in old tobacco ads and memorabilia. The folks you can see downstairs are in the Stage bar, sitting behind the performers’ area. The performers face out into the main bar, half a floor down.

There was some sort of important football2 game going on this evening, so the music started a little late so folks could watch the end of the game.  I used the time to eat some very nice stew and drink some cider.

This is Wallop the Cat. Mainly, they sang and played guitar and mandolin, but I was keeping my eye on the concertina sitting on the shelf behind the guitar player.
In fact, I was watching that concertina so hard, I didn’t notice that the mandolin player had picked up a low whistle until he started playing it.

It was a good set. They were on until 9:00, but I only lasted until around 8:00, being dead tired. I did find this video of them also performing at Matt the Millers back in 2012, so you can get a taste of what I got last night.

And then I went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Walking back across the bridge, I took a quick picture of Kilkenny Castle. It looked pretty good in the bright sunset.

This morning, after a nice breakfast, I went for a little walk before my walking tour. It was a good reminder that Kilkenny has something that we don’t in Winnipeg – hills3. But I found a pharmacy that was open, and got the things I wanted to get – deodorant, toothpaste, and razors, all stuff I don’t want the hassle of carrying in my carry-on luggage.

Now, I’ve been on this tour before, so there wasn’t much new. If you’re curious about Kilkenny, check out my post from last time. A couple of things had changed – notably, I didn’t see the big head of St. Canice in High Street, and there were some changes to St. Mary’s church and the Butter Slip.

The Butter Slip is a little, steep lane connecting High Street and Kieran’s Street. It used to run all the way down to the river, where bargemen would haul up the butter, milk, and cheese for market, and sell it out of the slip, sheltered from the sun. The restaurant on the right is new, and it’s called Petronella, which is the name of the maidservant of Alice Kyteler, the famous witch of Kilkenny. Petronella didn’t escape, like Alice, and wasn’t rich enough to buy her way to freedom, like Alice’s son, so she was burned alive in the High Street for witchcraft.
This is St. Mary’s Church. Last time I was in Kilkenny, it was abandoned and run down and overgrown. The guide on that tour mourned the fact that it was such a historically important building, but the city didn’t have the funds or the will to do anything to preserve it. Today, I saw that it has been greatly restored and turned into the Medieval Mile Museum.

You can see the numbers marked on the stones making up the gatepost, showing how they’ve been reassembled. I was tremendously happy to see the new museum4, and went back after the walking tour to have a look.

This is the inside of the Medieval Mile Museum.

I took the guided tour, which took about an hour. I was surprised at that length of time, because it’s not a huge place, but Pat, the guide, was amazing. He provided a real in-depth history of the city, and how it was different from pretty much any other Irish city, and why that was important, and how that gave context to all the stuff he was showing off.

Okay. So, Kilkenny was run by ten merchant families. Of those, there were three who were pretty much at the top, and each had a private chapel off the main area of St. Mary’s. This was the private chapel of the Rothe family. Interestingly, instead of religious iconography, this memorial was decorated with all the coats of arms for the Rothes. The only concession to less worldly ideas is a tiny memento mori skeleton right up at the very top.

Notice the two floor levels. Due to… uh, religious differences between the Catholic merchant families of Kilkenny and the Protestant king5, when the king took notice of the clandestine Catholicism, he sent a man to straighten things out. This man, among other things, took all the Catholic markers and plaques in the church, put them on the floor, buried them, and put a new floor over top. It’s only in the last couple of years, when the archaeologists got set loose in the church, that all these markers and tombs were found.

Obviously, the story of the hidden tombs was not completely lost. During the archaeological processing of the site, they found in one of the Rothe tombs some guns that had been hidden there circa the 1916 uprising.
These are resin and plaster replicas of high crosses made my an Italian artist for the National Museum in Dublin. He made 12, and 10 are in storage at the National Museum. These two used to mark the border between the kingdom of Munster and the kingdom of Ossory, of which Kilkenny was the capital. They were imposing and ostentatious shows of wealth for the time, and say a lot about the nature of Kilkenny’s merchant families.
The graveyard is being restored, as well. It’s still somewhat overgrown, but now it’s artistically disheveled, instead of just neglected.

After the Medieval Mile Museum, I went to see Rothe House, a 16th and 17th century townhouse6 that has been restored by the local archaeology society.

Here in the reception room of Rothe House is the skull of a giant Irish deer. These went extinct about 10,000 years ago, and this skull was found in a bog. The antler spread is about seven feet.
Quern stones gathered up by the Rothes, because rich person archaeology.
This is a cist grave from County Carlow. It’s in the courtyard of Rothe House because they dug it up, disposed of the cremated remains in it, and moved it here. Because, again, rich person archaeology.
One more piece of weirdness from Rothe House. These are pieces from a flying machine. Long story short, rich dude in the 1850s built an aerial chariot in his dining room. It looked kind of like a Da Vinci drawing. He had to expand the dining room door to get it out, took it to a high place, and made a not-rich guy try to fly it.
It didn’t work, and not-rich guy broke his leg.
This did not stop the rich guy from patenting the aerial chariot.

This evening, I went on the Kilkenny Ghost Tour, which was a lot of fun. It lost a little something because it wasn’t dark, yet, but we did get to wear black polyester capes. Nothing really new to take pictures of, though.

But it was nice to go walking past all the pubs and hear so much traditional Irish music spilling out the doors.

And then I came back to the hotel to do this post.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Jerpoint Abbey and Kells Priory. It’ll be a taxi tour that takes up about half the day. Should be fun.

  1. For all the writers reading this: that’s the way they spell it. Don’t come at me about apostrophes. []
  2. Maybe it was rugby. []
  3. To anyone in Winnipeg who wants to argue that point, just don’t. If you’re arguing with me about this, you haven’t faced Kilkenny’s hills. Stop embarrassing yourself. []
  4. I also tweeted about it, but made a typo, so I called it the Medieval Mike Museum. A friend asked if that was related to Magic Mike, and I said that was what you called Magic Mike when he reached his Middle Ages. I’m a funny guy. []
  5. And Oliver Cromwell. []
  6. Two centuries, because it’s really a series of three townhouses built back from the street. First one was built in 1594 and the third in 1610. []

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