St. Canice’s Cathedral, also known as Kilkenny Cathedral, is located in the medieval city of Kilkenny. The present-day building dates back to the 13th century and is the second largest cathedral in Ireland after St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
A monastic settlement was established on this site in the 6th century by St. Canice, and that building was the reason Kilkenny received its name. The Gaelic origin of Kilkenny, Cill Channigh, literally means the Church of Canice.
The present-day buildings are built in English Gothic and contain some of the finest ancient monuments in Ireland. The cathedral includes 24 stained-glass windows and marble floors. The marble floors represent the four provinces that constitute the island of Ireland: Connaught (the green marble of Connemara), Leinster (the black marble of Kilkenny), Munster (the grey marble of Cork) and Ulster (the red marble of Tyrone). The cathedral also contains the ancient Chair of St Kieran, made of carved stone, which is still used today for the enthronement of the Church of Ireland’s Bishops of Cashel and Ossory.
The Round Tower
One of the most significant aspects of this Cathedral is the 100-foot round tower from the 9th century, and it is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City. This tower is an example of a well-preserved 9th-century “Celtic Christian” round tower. The purpose of round towers, Cloigtheach in Irish, is unclear but the most popular hypothesis is they were built to defend against raiders.
The round tour of St. Canice is only one of two towers in Irland that you can climb, and it is well worth the 121 steps. The views from the top of the tower offer visitors a spectacular view of Kilkenny.
Don’t miss other aspects inside The Close like the graveyard, a 300-year old library, the sexton’s house and more.