The Rock began as a cathedral in the early 1100s. In the 13th Century, the cathedral that stands today was constructed over the original. In the 15th Century, it was altered and parapets (love that word) and a tower were added.
Lord Inchiquin (you really can't make up these names) "sacked" the cathedral in 1647 (yes, I'm looking at my brochure as I write), but the cathedral was still in use by the Church of Ireland until 1749.
It became a National Monument in 1875 (no typo, that's eighteen 75) and some conservation work was done; in 1975 it was re-roofed and restored and the dormitory was excavated in the 1980s (why the date of the excavations isn't specific, I don't know! They were pretty specific about stuff that happened hundreds of years ago).
The architecture and remodeling were really incredible.
But what fascinated me were the faces. Not so noticeable at first, because of the grandeur of the building itself. But there, up high...(look close), where the support stone for the long gone upper floor is...
Carved stone faces on top of pillars...:
faces on top of walls...:
...and none of them the same. I don't mean that they were hand carved so that each looked slightly different. I mean NONE were the same.
There were women:
(although this may be a wrestling chokehold)
but still the individuality of each piece came through.
A2 said he read somewhere that they were the faces of people who didn't pay the stone masons' fees, kind of caricatures-I have my doubts about that. But many were strange, funny faces, not carved to be beautiful, but to convey some message or depict some particular persona that the carver had in mind. Were they religious in nature? I don't know...I don't think so, but then my mind doesn't go that way automatically, and we WERE in an old cathedral. So, maybe. In any case, I took a lot of pictures of the faces.