St. Canice's Cathedral & Round Tower

The Cathedral Church of St Canice,
The Close, Coach Rd,
Kilkenny City, Ireland.

Phone : +353 (0)56 7764971

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Transepts, Rood Beam and The Crossing



(The 'arms' of the cross-shaped church)
The South transept is the burial place for the Butler family. Since the 13th century they have been the Lords of Kilkenny Castle and included the Earls, Dukes and Marquesses of Ormonde, who earned an honoured place in Irish history. Sadly the last of the line died in 1997. The 16th century double effigy of the 8th Earl, Piers and his wife Margaret Butler, rests on borrowed side panels. Beside it is the monument of (probably) their son the 9th Earl, James, who was poisoned in London, along with 35 of his servants and suite.

margaret_butler.jpgDue to a series of coincidences, no Ormondes were buried in the cathedral for 200 years from the mid 1700's, and the family vaults were covered over and lost to memory. The present vault was built in 1854 on the death of the then Marquis. Just 10 years later, while the old classical choir was being stripped, the original vaults were found either side of the altar and under the present organ. The bodies from them were re-interred in the new vault and the old ones sealed and covered over again. High in the East walls of the transepts are a pair of small openings.

These john_butler_2nd_marquis_of_ormonde__cathedral.jpggive access to ancient passages within the walls. Now closed off, they probably provided access to the choir and side chapel roofs.

Rood Beam

The 'Rood' was a standard feature of a medieval church, being a carved representation of the Crucifixion. Normally it was placed over the 'Rood-screen' which was a wall separating the choir (the clergy's part of the church) from the nave (for the congregation). More rarely it was supported on a beam. At the tower ends of the nave walls can be seen two carved stone corbels (projecting supporting stones) which may have supported such a rood beam here. There was a choir screen which was removed by Dean Vignoles, but this probably dated from the repairs after the tower collapse.

The Crossing

the_crossing.jpg(The area where choir, nave and transepts meet)When the tower collapsed in 1332, it seems only the West arch and wall remained, with the South West pier and adjacent nave columns pushed noticeably out of plumb. When the repairs were carried out some 20 years later, the choir and transept arches were built up, the tower stopped off at a much reduced height, and the three rebuilt piers and arches strengthened. The details at the tops of the new piers are rather curious, and suggest that the bishop and mason weren't too sure what to do with the arches. The closed up side arches were re opened by Dean Vignoles in the 1860s.

The stone vaulting dates from the 5th Century. While it has been suggested that it was put in as further strengthening for the tower piers, it appears to be purely decorative. There is a ringing-chamber over the vaulting, with the bells hung in a new bell-chamber behind the tower parapets.

To find out more information on Transepts, Rood Beam and The Crossing, contact St. Canice's Cathedral & Round Tower