Sunset in Kilkenny

St. Mary's church in Kilkenny, Ireland, silhouetted by the setting sun.

Kilkenny is one of Ireland's oldest cities, starting with a monastic settlement around St. Canice's Cathedral in the sixth century. The first written reference to Cill Chainnigh (church of Canice) appears in 1085. After William the Conqueror took over the throne of England, the Anglo-Norman lords invaded Ireland. Richard the Strongbow established a castle near the site of today's Kilkenny castle.

Eventually the area around the castle, including today's High Street, became known as Hightown, while the area around St. Canice's was called Irishtown. The actual division between the Irish and Anglo-Norman settlers who followed the invaders, and who came to occupy areas of Kilkenny – and much of Ireland – may have been less clear. After a century or so of living in Ireland the descendants of these settlers were described as "more Irish than the Irish themselves." They had adopted Irish customs, styles of dress, and language and the country's leading class were none too happy about it.

The Statutes of Kilkenny were an attempt to reverse course. The Statutes forbid the English from intermarrying with native Irish, from fostering or adopting Irish children, and from taking part in Irish past times, such as Hurling. Just how much the English had become Irish is evident from one statute – those who couldn't speak English were required to learn it, or risk losing their lands and property.

Fill your heart with Ireland

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