The Historic Graves project recently had a meeting in the Heritage Council Offices in Kilkenny which are nestled in the fabulously restored 14th century Bishop’s Palace building just outside the boundary wall surrounding St Canice’s Cathedral. I was early for the meeting and took the opportunity to explore the graveyard surrounding St Canice’s. By the time I ventured inside the cathedral it was close to closing for lunch but the nice lady manning the desk let me in for free to have a quick look around.
The Cathedral occupies the site of an earlier church which was burned down in the twelfth century and most of the building visible today can be dated to the thirteenth century although the tower was added in the fourteenth century when the original fell down in 1334. A round tower without its conical roof is located just to the south of the main building. The complex as a whole is located on a low hill and there are great views across Kilkenny city which is laid out before you to the south.
The interior of the Cathedral has a fantastic collection of 16th and 17th century effigal tombs. Unfortunately it is very difficult to photograph these beautifully carved stone memorials without a specialist photographic set up. The original east stained glass window was inserted in the 14th century but was destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1650. A drawing of the windows by the Papal Nuncio Rinucini a few years before their destruction was used to copy the scenes from the life of Christ depicted in the originals and to reinstate the windows in 1875. There is a wide range of memorial stones in the graveyard surrounding the cathedral and on the day of my visit the sun shone and it was a lovely warm oasis in the middle of a busy city. Many of the memorials are badly weathered but a group of memorial stones dedicated to members of the Smithwick Family caught my eye.
I took a series of photographs during my visit which are presented below in the form of a slide show. I can’t seem to resist photographs of round towers as a previous slide show from a visit to Kilmacduagh in Galway will attest. St Canice’s Cathedral and graveyard are well worth a visit and a short but informative guide to the many delights contained within the Cathedral is available at the entrance desk. The Heritage Council have also produced a well illustrated and accessible guide to Kilkenny’s history which has a section on St Canice’s.