A little Kilkenny History

Kilkenny (Cill Chainnigh) is the Ireland of many persons imaginations. Its majestic riverside castle, its tangle of 17th-century passageways, rows of colourful, old-fashioned shopfronts and centuries-old pubs with traditional live music all have a timeless appeal, as does its splendid medieval cathedral. Kilkenny is also famed for its contemporary restaurants and rich cultural life.

Kilkenny's architectural charm owes a huge debt to the Middle Ages, when the city was a seat of political power. It's also known as the 'marble city' after the local black limestone, which resembles a slate-coloured marble and is used on floors and in decorative trim throughout town.

Kilkenny's rich medieval heritage is evident in the city's treasure trove of historical buildings and landmarks, exemplified by the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. Kilkenny is arguably the pre-eminent medieval city in Ireland, with the current layout of the city clearly grounded in the city's medieval roots.

However, the city's origins predate the medieval landmarks existing today. Saint Canice founded a monastic settlement in Kilkenny in the sixth century, unfortunately the sole remaining landmark from this settlement is the round tower positioned alongside the cathedral.

Strongbow, the legendary Norman invader, built a fort in the twelfth century on the site where Kilkenny Castle stands today. Subsequent to this event, William Marshall (Strongbow's son-in-law and Earl of Pembroke) oversaw the building and maintenance of fortified city walls thus consolidating the Norman's position of power in the city.

However, it wasn't until the seventeenth century that Kilkenny really entered its golden age. The parliament known as the Confederation of Kilkenny was founded in 1641. One of the parliament's main objectives was to unite resistance against English persecution of Irish Catholics. With the emergence of this parliament, Kilkenny entered a period of unparalleled success. Over time, however, the influence of the Confederation of Kilkenny diminished. Oliver Cromwell's arrival in Kilkenny heralded the dissolution of the parliament, and the city never quite regained the prosperity it had previously been celebrated for.

Fast-tracking to the present, it is important to note that a substantial portion of the landmarks illustrating Kilkenny's medieval past still exist. Allied to this historical heritage, it is important to recognise that the city prides itself on its lively cultural scene, with important events hosted annually in the city. These events include the Arts Week Festival in the last two weeks of August, and the Cats Laughs Festival at the beginning of June. During the Arts Week Festival a variety of classical music events take place, along with art exhibitions, literary reading, jazz & folk sessions, and so on. At the Cats Laughs Festival, celebrated comedians from throughout the world perform in the city's clubs, pubs and theatres.

All in all, a visit to Kilkenny is a richly rewarding experience with a variety of interesting places to see and things to do.


Dame Alice Kyteler

Dame Alice Kyteler (1280 – later than 1325), was born in Kyteler's House, Kilkenny, Ireland, the only child of an established Anglo-Norman family.

She was married four times, to William Outlawe, Adam le Blund, Richard de Valle and, finally, Sir John le Poer who suspected he was being poisoned. On his death, the children of her four husbands accused her of using poison and sorcery against their fathers and of favouring her first-born son William Outlawe. In addition, she and her followers were accused of denying the faith, sacrificing animals to demons and blasphemy. The case was brought in 1324 before the then Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede, an English Franciscan friar. The bishop wrote to the Chancellor of Ireland, Roger Outlawe, to have her arrested but this rebounded on him, the Chancellor being her first brother-in-law, and de Ledrede himself was jailed by Sir Arnold le Poer, the Seneschal of Kilkenny, her fourth brother-in-law. John Darcy, the Lord Chief Justice travelled to Kilkenny to investigate the events and vindicated the Bishop who again attempted to have Dame Alice arrested. She fled to the Kingdom of England in 1325 and appears no further in contemporary records.

The Bishop continued to pursue her followers (bringing charges of witchcraft against them), and William Outlawe (accusing him, inter alia, of heresy, usury, perjury, adultery, and clericide). William escaped relatively lightly, being ordered to hear three masses a day for a year and to feed the poor. Her lower-class followers were less fortunate and one of them, Petronella de Meath, was flogged and burned at the stake on November 3, 1324.

This was one of the first European witchcraft cases and followed closely on the election of Pope John XXII (1316-1334), to the Papacy. In 1320, he had witchcraft added to the list of heresies.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.