Gwanggaeto the Great

 by , published on 12 October 2016
Tomb of Gwanggaeto the Great (Bart0278)

Gwanggaeto (Kwanggaeto), often referred to as Gwanggaeto the Great, was king of the Goguryeo (Koguryo) kingdom which ruled northern Korea during the Three Kingdoms period. Gwanggaeto reigned between 391 and 413 CE, and living up to his other title of ‘broad expander of domain,’ he extended the kingdom to its greatest extent and presided over the period of its greatest prosperity. His lasting reputation as one of Korea’s finest leaders and field commanders is largely due to a lengthy inscribed stele set up outside his massive tomb at the then Goguryeo capital of Kungnaesong.


The Goguryeo kingdom ruled from 37 BCE to 668 CE and was the largest of the Three kingdoms of ancient Korea. It was not until the 4th century CE that the state displayed a fully centralised government and control of its territory. Then the early 5th century CE saw the beginning of Goguryeo’s greatest period during the reign of Gwanggaeto. A solid political foundation at home allied with pragmatic foreign relations with Goguryeo’s neighbours Baekje (Paekche) and Silla went hand-in-hand with an aggressive expansionist policy towards northern tribes and the southern states of China. At the same time, friendly relations were maintained with China’s northern states. The result of this mix of militarism and diplomacy was that Gwanggaeto was eventually able to dominate northern Korea, most of Manchuria, and a portion of Inner Mongolia. Goguryeo itself also benefitted from this prosperity with Gwanggaeto building nine new Buddhist temples at Pyongyang alone. So successful was this period that Gwanggaeto even coined a new term for it: Yongnak or ‘Eternal Rejoicing.’



Much of what is known of the history of this period derives from the 12th-century CE Samguk sagi text (‘Historical Records of the Three States’) and a 7.3 metre tall stele erected outside Gwanggaeto’s tomb by his son Changsu in 414 CE. The engraved stone recounts the king’s exploits in 1,800 Chinese seal script characters. The stele is the earliest known inscription from ancient Korea and is an extraordinary historical record of the major events of Gwanggaetto’s reign. The text begins by describing the foundation of Goguryeo by the legendary Chumong. There is then a quote from the Confucian classic text Shujing and a reference to the king by the Chinese reign title Yongnak. The latter is significant as it gives Gwanggaetto equal status to the Chinese emperor, who was the only other person permitted a reign title.

Three Kingdoms of Korea

The text goes on to describe Gwanggaeto’s accession to the throne when he was 19 years old, and then there is a long list of his military exploits. Reforming the armed forces of Goguryeo into separate naval, army, and cavalry units, the king assumed a position at the head of a centralised chain of command and led his men personally in the field. There were also developments at this time in metal forging so that Goguryeo warriors had superior steel weapons. With an armoured cavalry unit, he occupied the Liaodong fortress in south-eastern Manchuria, conquered the northern Murong, Sushen (Sukchin) and Yilou tribes, and captured areas of the rival Baekje kingdom to the south-west in 396 CE including briefly the capital Hansong, the Gwanmiseong fortress, and the strategically important Han River basin. The Baekje king Asin now took his orders from Gwanggaeto.

With Gwanggaeto’s military support of 50,000 men, the Silla kingdom was able to successfully repel a Japanese Wa and Baekje invasion force in 400 CE. Indeed, the kingdom of Silla under the reign of Namul became a vassal of Goguryeo. Also in 400 CE Goguryeo and Silla again joined forces, this time to attack the small Gaya (Kaya) confederation in the far south of the peninsula. This alliance between Goguryeo and Silla may explain the presence of a lidded bronze bowl inscribed with Gwanggaeto’s name which was discovered in a tomb at the Silla capital of Gyeongju (Kyongju). In effect, Goguryeo, albeit loosely, now controlled most of Korea.

In 406 CE a peace treaty was signed with the Murong Later Yan state in which Goguryeo was obliged to give military help against the Tuoba Northern Wei state of China in return for territorial gains. Near the end of his reign in 410 CE most of Manchuria and the neighbouring east coast area known as the Maritime Province of Russia were under Goguryeo control. The stele also states that the king conquered no fewer than 64 fortified towns and 1,400 villages so that when he died Goguryeo controlled two-thirds of the Korean peninsula and a large swathe of Manchuria.

Gwanggaeto Stele

The stele is not without some controversy. It disappeared for centuries only turning up again in the 1880s CE when, fortunately, a rubbing was taken of the text by a Japanese soldier. The portion of the stele text which describes Gwanggaeto’s victory over the Japanese was vandalised during the Japanese occupation in the 20th century CE. Japanese historians maintain that the stele corroborates the theory that Japan had a colony in south-east Korea from 365 to 561 CE, but this is controversial.


Gwanggaeto died in 413 CE and was succeeded by his son Changsu who, incredibly, reigned until 491 CE, earning him the deserved title of ‘long-lived.’ He continued his father’s work, moved the capital from Kungnaesong to Pyongyang in 427 CE and ensured the continued prosperity of Goguryeo.

From the 4th century CE, Goguryeo kings were buried in tombs constructed of cut-stone blocks placed within large earth mounds. The largest example of such a tomb is at the former capital Kungnaesong (modern Tonggou/Tungkou) and thought to be that of Gwanggaeto. It is also known as the Tomb of the General. 75 metres long and using blocks measuring up to 3 x 5 metres, it has four smaller dolmen-like structures at each corner. The stele which proclaims the great king’s deeds stands just outside it.

This article was made possible with generous support from the British Korean Society.


Mark Cartwright

Mark holds an M.A. in Greek philosophy and his special interests include ceramics, the ancient Americas, and world mythology. He loves visiting and reading about historic sites and transforming that experience into free articles accessible to all.


Cath Chnoc na nOs, Cuid de Chogadh na dTrí Ríocht

Cath Chnoc na nOs
Cuid de Chogadh na dTrí Ríocht
Cath Chnoc na nOsCarraig PhádraigCaiseal na Rí, scriosta ag arm na bParlaiminteoirí roimh Chath Chnoc na nOs.
Dáta: Samhain 1647
Áit: Cnoc na nOs, Corcaigh, Éire.
Toradh: Bua lucht na Parlaiminte.
Céilí comhraic
Arm an Chomhcheangail, Caitlicighí na Mumhan agus méid áirithe de Ghaeil na hAlban. Parlaiminteoirí Shasana
Thiobóid Taaffe, 1ú Iarla Chairlinn
Alastair mac Colla Chiotaigh Mac Domhnaill
Murchadh Ó Briain, 1ú Iarla Inse Uí Chuinn
c7000 5200
>3000 ~1000

Troideadh Cath Chnoc na nOs sa bhliain 1647, le linn Chogadh na hAon Déag mBliana, cuid de Chogaí na dTrí Ríocht, idir Arm an Chomhcheangail faoi cheannas Thiobóid Taaffe, 1ú Iarla Chairlinn agus arm na bParlaiminteoirí faoi cheannas Murchadh Ó Briain, 1ú Iarla Inse Uí Chuinn (Béarla: Murrough O’Brien). Chreach Murchadh Caiseal sa bhliain 1647 agus rinne sé léirscrios ar Chúige Mumhan, rud a tharraing ‘Murchadh an Dóiteáin’ air mar leasainm. Rug Murchadh bua mór ar arm Thiobóid Taaffe, an chéad Iarla Chairlinn, ag Cath Chnoc na nOs i Mí na Samhna 1647, bua a mhill Arm an Chomhcheangail i gCúige Mumhan.

Batalla de Knocknanuss

Batalla de Knocknanuss
Guerras confederadas de Irlanda
Fecha noviembre de 1647
Lugar Condado de Cork
Resultado Derrota del Ejército confederado irlandés
Ejército confederado irlandés Parlamento de Inglaterra
Theobald Taaffe
Alasdair MacColla
Murrough O’Brien, I conde de Inchiquin
~ ~
[editar datos en Wikidata]

La batalla de Knocknanauss tuvo lugar en el condado de Cork, en Knocknanuss, Irlanda, en noviembre de 1647. Se libró durante las Guerras confederadas, parte de las guerras de los Tres Reinos, entre el ejército Confederado irlandés de Munster y el Ejército Parlamentario inglés bajo el mando del conde de Inchiquin, Murrough O’Brien. Resultó en una aplastante derrota para los confederados irlandeses.


En el verano de 1647, Murrough O’Brien (posteriormente nombrado conde de Inchiquin), comandante de las fuerzas Parlamentarias de Cork, arrasó e incendió el territorio confederado en Munster, hecho que dejó sin alimentos a los insurgentes y concedió a O’Brien el mote irlandés de Murchadh na dóiteáin (Murrough el incendiario). Además, Inchiquin capturó Rock of Cashel, donde se encontraban acuarteladas las tropas confederadas, pero que también poseía un emotivo simbolismo religioso. Durante el saqueo del castillo, las tropas de O’Brien masacraron a la guarnición y a todo el clero católico que encontraron a su paso.

El ejército confederado de Munster era incapaz de detener a O’Brien debido a las disputas políticas de los oficiales que apoyaban el trato con los Realistas y los que lo rechazaban. Finalmente, en reacción al saqueo de Cashel y acercándose a condiciones de hambruna provocadas por el pillaje de O’Brien, el Consejo Supremo de la confederación reemplazó a Donagh MacCarthy, vizconde de Muskerry como comandante del ejército de Munster por el Vizconde de Taafe y le ordenó entablar combate con O’Brien.

Taafe era un católico inglés sin experiencia militar y aunque tenía un excelente contingente formado por tropas veteranas bajo Alasdair MacColla, la mayoría de sus hombres eran igual de inexpertos. Además, las tropas irlandesas se encontraban desmoralizadas por el faccionalismo interno de sus jefes y la mayoría de ellos tenían poca o ninguna lealtad a Taafe. Por otro lado, O’Brien, había estado al mando de sus fuerzas desde 1642 y era bien ducho en el campo de batalla. Sus tropas eran una mezcla de soldados Parlamentarios bien entrenados que habían sido embarcados desde Inglaterra y de colonizadores británicos que habían sido desposeídos de sus hogares en la rebelión de 1641. Ambos ejércitos se encontraron en Knocknanuss, cerca de Mallow, en el condado de Cork en noviembre de 1647.

La batalla

La batalla siguiente fue esencialmente una apabullante descordinación de las fuerzas irlandesas. Taafe colocó a sus hombres en cada lado de una colina, de modo que no podían verse entre ellos, lo cual resultó en que un ala del ejército Confederado no tenía ni idea de lo que la otra estaba haciendo. Los hombres de MacColla cargaron contra los hombres que tenían delante haciendo que se espantaran y llegando a matar a muchos de ellos, pero creyendo que la batalla había finalizado, comenzaron a saquearlos.

Sin embargo, en la otra ala, la caballería de O’Brien había cargado contra los inexpertos jinetes irlandeses, consiguiendo que huyesen. A pesar del desesperado intento de Taafe para reunirlos, la infantería irlandesa siguió el mismo ejemplo, siendo muchos de ellos divididos por los Parlamentarios que los seguían. La persecución continuó durante millas y no sólo resultó en fuertes bajas entre los irlandeses, sino también en la pérdida de la mayoría de su equipamiento y suministros. MacColla y sus hombres se rindieron cuando se dieron cuenta de lo que había pasado, pero finalmente fueron asesinados por sus captores. Alrededor de 3.000 Confederados murieron en Knocknanauss, y hasta 1.000 Parlamentarios ingleses. La carnicería no terminó al finalizar la batalla: al día siguiente encontraron a un par de cientos de soldados irlandeses refugiados en un bosque de las cercanías que rápidamente fueron pasados por las armas.


Combinada con la batalla de la Colina de Dungan en el condado de Meath, la derrota condujo al colapso de la Confederación católica y la forzó a llegar a un acuerdo con los Realistas ingleses.

Enlaces externos

Schlacht von Knocknanauss

Datum November 1647
Ort Knocknanauss, Irland
Ausgang englischer Sieg
Irische konföderierte Munster-Armee Englische Parlamentarier-Armee
Viscount Taafe, Alasdair MacColla Murrough O’Brien
6.000 7.000
über 3.000 1.500
JulianstownDroghedaKilrushLiscarrollNew RossLimerickGalwayBenburbDungans HillKnocknanauss

Die Schlacht von Knocknanauss (englisch Battle of Knocknanauss, irisch Cath Chnoc na nOs) fand während der Irischen Konföderationskriege im November 1647 zwischen der Armee der Konföderation Irland und der englischen Parlamentarier-Armee im Süden Irlands statt.

Im Sommer 1647 überfiel Murrough O’Brien (Earl Inchiquinn), Kommandant der englisch-parlamentarischen Armee in Cork, das konföderierte Gebiet in Munster und hinterließ niedergebrannte Orte, Häuser und Felder, was ihm den Spitznamen Murchadh na doiteann (Murrough der Brandstifter) einbrachte. Bei diesem Kriegszug eroberte O’Brien auch den Rock of Cashel, zur damaligen Zeit ein wichtiges religiöses Symbol der Iren. Bei der Eroberung ließ O’Brien die dortige Garnison und den katholischen Klerus massakrieren.

Die konföderierte Munster-Armee war wegen interner Querelen zunächst nicht in der Lage, O’Briens Armee zu stoppen – insbesondere die Frage, ob die Konföderation ein Bündnis mit den englischen Royalisten eingehen sollte, spaltete sie. Erst nach dem Fall des Rock of Cashel und nachdem wegen des Niederbrennens der Felder kaum noch Nahrungsmittel vorhanden waren, wurde Donagh MacCarthy als Kommandant der Munster-Armee durch Viscount Taafe ersetzt, der den Auftrag erhielt O’Brien zu bekämpfen.

Taafe war ein englischer Katholik und besaß nur wenig Erfahrung als Soldat. Er hatte zwar eine exzellente Truppe von Veteranen unter Alasdair MacColla als Unterstützung, ein Großteil seiner Soldaten waren aber ebenfalls unerfahren. Auch die irischen Truppen waren durch den Streit über die Allianz mit den Royalisten demoralisiert und viele waren Taafe gegenüber nicht loyal. Die englischen Truppen hingegen, die von O’Brien bereits seit 1642 kommandiert wurden, waren kampferprobt und gut trainiert. Bei Knocknanauss (nahe dem Ort Mallow, Grafschaft Cork) trafen beide Armeen im November 1647 aufeinander.

Die folgende Schlacht war eigentlich ein unkoordiniertes Angreifen der irischen Truppen. Taafe positionierte seine Männer in zwei Truppen auf verschiedenen Seiten eines Hügels, sodass sich beide nicht mehr sehen konnten. Das Resultat war, dass ein Flügel der konföderierten Armee nicht wusste, was der andere tat. MacColla’s Männer jagten die parlamentarischen Soldaten und töteten eine große Anzahl von ihnen. In dem Gedanken, dass die Schlacht gewonnen sei, begannen sie den parlamentarischen Begleitzug zu plündern. Beim anderen Flügel hingegen hatte O’Briens Kavallerie die irischen Reiter in die Flucht geschlagen und Taafe konnte nicht verhindern, dass die irischen Fußsoldaten ebenfalls flüchteten – viele von ihnen wurden bei der Flucht getötet. MacColla begriff erst, dass die Schlacht noch nicht vorbei war, als er von parlamentarischen Truppen umrundet war. Auch ein Großteil seiner Armee wurde daraufhin getötet. Ca. 3.000 irische Soldaten verloren bei dieser Schlacht ihr Leben.

Battle of Knocknanuss

Battle of Knocknanuss
Part of the Irish Confederate Wars
The Rock of Cashel, sacked by English Parliamentarian troops before the battle of Knocknanauss
Date 13 November 1647
Location Knocknanauss, County Cork
Result English Parliamentarian Victory
Irish Confederate Catholics Munster army and some Highland Scots English Parliamentarians
Commanders and leaders
Theobald Taaffe 1st Earl of Carlingford
Alasdair Mac Colla 
Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin
c7000 5200
Casualties and losses
over 3000 up to 1000

The Battle of Knocknanauss was fought in 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, between Confederate Ireland’s Munster army and an English Parliamentarian army under Murrough O’Brien. The battle resulted in a crushing defeat for the Irish Confederates.


In the summer of 1647, Murrough O’Brien (later created the Earl of Inchiquin), commander of the English Parliamentarian forces in Cork, ravaged and burned the Confederate territory in Munster. This caused severe food shortages and earned O’Brien the Irish nickname, Murchadh an dTóiteán (Murrough the burner). In addition, Inchiquinn took the Rock of Cashel, which was garrisoned by Confederate troops but was also rich in emotive religious symbolism. In the sack of the castle, O’Brien’s troops massacred the garrison and also all the clergy they found there.

The Confederates’ Munster army was incapable of stopping O’Brien because of political infighting between officers who supported a deal with the English Royalists and those who rejected such a deal. Eventually, in reaction to the sack of Cashel and when near famine conditions were approaching as a result of O’Brien’s pillaging, the Confederate Supreme Council replaced Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, as commander of the Munster army with Viscount Taaffe and ordered him to bring O’Brien to battle.

Taaffe was an English Catholic and not an experienced soldier. Moreover, although he had an excellent contingent of veteran troops under Alasdair MacColla, most of his men were similarly inexperienced. Furthermore, the Irish troops were demoralised by the internal factionalism in their ranks and most of them had little loyalty to Taafe. O’Brien, on the other hand, had been commanding his force since 1642 and was well tried in battle. His troops were a mixture of well trained Parliamentarian soldiers shipped from England and British settlers who had been driven from their homes in the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The two armies met at Knocknanuss, “the hill of the fawns” (cnoc na nos), a townland near Kanturk, Mallow in County Cork in November 1647.

The battle

The battle that followed was essentially an uncoordinated rout of the Irish forces. Taaffe positioned his men on either side of a hill, so that they could not see one another. The result was that one wing of the Confederate army had no idea of what the other wing was doing. MacColla’s men charged the Parliamentarians opposite them putting them to flight and killing a large number of them. Thinking the battle was over, they then took to looting the enemies baggage train.

However, on the other wing, O’Brien’s cavalry had charged the raw Irish horsemen, causing them to run away. Despite Taaffe’s desperate attempt to rally them, the Irish infantry followed suit, many of them being cut down by the pursuing roundheads. The pursuit continued for miles and not only resulted in heavy casualties among the Irish, but also in the loss of most of their equipment and supplies. Inchiquin lost several senior officers, including the Judge-Advocate, Sir Robert Travers. MacColla and his men surrendered when they realised what had happened but were subsequently killed by their captors. Around 3,000 Confederates died at Knocknanauss, and up to 1,000 English Parliamentarians. The carnage did not stop after the fighting was finished. The next day a couple of hundred Irish soldiers were found sheltering in a nearby wood. These were promptly put to the sword.


When combined with the battle of Dungans Hill in County Meath, the defeat led to the collapse of the Confederate Catholic cause and forced them to make a deal with the English Royalists.

See also



  • Stevenson, David (1980). Alasdair MacColla and the Highland problem in the seventeenth century. Edinburgh.
  • McDonnell, Randall William (1906). When Cromwell came to Drogheda : a memory of 1649. Dublin. Chapter X ‘Sack of Cashel and Battle of Knock-na-noss’ Note ; This is an ‘historical novel’, and not an eyewitness account.

Teabóid Gallduf

Theobald Stapleton, alias Teabóid Gallduf or Gallduff (1589 – 13 September 1647), was an Irish Roman Catholic priest born in County Tipperary,[1] Ireland. Little is known of his career, except that he was a priest living in Flanders.

In 1639, he published a catechism in Early Modern Irish to promote the use of the language in religious literature. It was the first Roman Catholic book in which the Irish language was printed in antiqua type. The book, published in Brussels, was called Catechismus seu doctrina christiana latino-hibernica or, in Irish, Cathcismus sen Adhon, an Teagasc Críostaí iar na foilsiú a Laidin & a Ngaoilaig.

Stapleton’s catechism was also the first notable attempt to simplify Irish spelling. He advocated and used a simplified spelling of Irish to encourage literacy among less educated people. In Stapleton’s system, silent letters in certain words were replaced, e.g., the idhe in the word suidhe (“sitting”) was replaced by í in suí (as in modern Irish). He also brought the spelling closer to the pronunciation, e.g. by replacing thbh as in uathbhás (“terror”) by f, giving uafás as in modern Irish. However, only authors of devotional literature adopted his spelling system; the classical spelling system remained in place until the 20th century.

In September 1647, in the Sack of Cashel, during the Irish Confederate Wars Stapleton was captured in the cathedral at Cashel by Parliamentarian soldiers under the command of Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin, and put to death on the spot.


  1. Ryan-Hackett, The Stapletons of Drom, alias Font-Forte, Co. Tipperary (1995).

Sources and external links

Sack of Cashel

Sack of Cashel
Part of the Irish Confederate Wars
The Rock of Cashel, the citadel in which the defenders of Cashel attempted to hold off the assault
Date September 1647
Location Cashel, County Tipperary
Result English Parliamentarians take the town and massacre its garrison
Irish Confederate Catholics Munster army garrison English Parliamentarians
Commanders and leaders
Lieutenant-Colonel Butler Murrough O’Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin
c.600 soldiers
Casualties and losses
c.600 soldiers & hundreds of civilians killed low

The Sack of Cashel (also known as the Massacre of Cashel[1]) was a notorious atrocity which occurred in the Irish County of Tipperary in the year 1647, during the Irish Confederate Wars, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The town of Cashel was held by the Irish Catholic Confederate’s Munster army and was besieged and taken by an English Protestant Parliamentarian army under Murrough O’Brien the Baron of Inchiquin. The attack and subsequent sack of Cashel was one of the more brutal incidents of the wars of the 1640s in Ireland.

The Munster mutiny

The Sack of Cashel occurred against the background of a complex conflict in the south of Ireland. In 1642, most the province of Munster had fallen to Irish Catholic rebels with the exception of Cork city and a few towns along the south coast, which remained in the hands of Protestant, largely English settlers. Since then, the province had been fought over by the Catholics, organised in the Catholic Confederation, and the Protestants, led by the Earl of Inchiquin.

The political and military situation was further fragmented by the English Civil War, in which the Catholics gave their support to King Charles I, and the Protestants, since 1643, to the English Parliament. What was more, the Confederate Catholics were themselves split over the terms on which they should sign a peace deal with the King. A deep rift developed within their ranks in 1647 between those who were prepared to accept a mere toleration of Catholicism in return for an alliance with the English Royalists and those who in effect wanted Ireland to be Catholic kingdom, albeit under sovereignty of the Stuart monarchy. This infighting was to fatally hamper the war effort of the Confederates in Munster and make possible the Protestant sack of Cashel.

On 12 June 1647 Donough MacCarthy, the Viscount of Muskerry entered the camp of the Irish Confederate Munster army. The Viscount Muskerry was probably the most powerful Confederate leader in Munster and was known to be sympathetic to the powerful Irish Royalist Ormonde. At that time, the Munster army was commanded by the Earl of Glamorgan, an English Catholic nobleman who had been granted command of the army by the Confederate Supreme council for reasons of political expediency, being aligned neither to the Royalist nor clerical faction.

Glamorgan was not popular, partly because he was English but also because he lacked money to regularly pay the soldiers. Muskerry was unsatisfied with the direction the Irish Confederate Supreme Council was headed under the influence of Rinuccinni and realised that he was in a position to influence the army of Munster and thereby strengthen his hand.[2]

He won the army over within an hour. A ceremony was afterwards arranged in which Glamorgan handed over command to Muskerry but this was merely to save face. Muskerry desired to turn his full attention to the politics of the Irish Confederations supreme council, and so immediately after the ceremony, Muskerry resigned in favour of Theobald Taaffe, a nobleman who had joined the Irish Confederates but who was known to be sympathetic to Royalism. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Lord Taaffe would subsequently prove to be one of the most incompetent leaders to command an Irish army during the 1640s.

Even worse, while the Munster Army was paralysed by the intrigues of its commanders, Inchiquin’s Protestant forces had embarked on a highly destructive campaign in Confederate held territory.

Inchiquin’s offensive

In the summer of 1647 the Baron of Inchiquin, the Irish Protestant commander of the Protestant army of Cork, commenced a campaign against the Irish Catholic strongholds in Munster. The counties of Limerick and Clare were raided and he soon turned his attention to the bountiful eastern counties of Munster. In early September, his forces quickly took the Castle of Cahir in Tipperary. This strong castle was well positioned to become a base for the Cork Protestant army, and it was used to raid and devastate the surrounding countryside. The Munster army under Lord Taaffe did not make any serious effort to oppose Inchiquin, probably the result of the political scheming of Muskerry and other powerful Irish lords who hoped to keep the Munster army intact for their own ends. As such, Inchiquin was allowed to make a major push towards the town and ecclesiastical centre of Cashel.

The attack

Inchiquin had already launched two minor raids against Cashel, and he now had the opportunity to launch a major assault. The Parliamentarian forces first stormed nearby Roche Castle, putting fifty warders to the sword. This attack terrified the local inhabitants of the region, some of whom fled to hiding places, while hundreds of others fled promptly to the Rock of Cashel, a stronger place than the town itself. Lord Taaffe had placed six companies in the fortified churchyard that sat upon the rock, and considered the place defensible, though he himself did not stay to put it to the test, leaving command to the Governor Lieutenant-Colonel Butler.

Arriving with his army at the Rock, Inchiquin called for surrender within an hour. The defenders of the churchyard offered to negotiate, but that was refused, and on the afternoon of the 15th of September the assault commenced. The Parliamentarians were first reminded of earlier atrocities against Protestants, and then began to deploy. The attack was led by around 150 dismounted horse officers (who wore more armour than the foot) with the remainder of the infantry following; troops of horse rode along the flanks of the advancing force to encourage the infantry. The Irish soldiers attempted to drive off the attackers with pikes while the civilians inside hurled rocks down from the walls: in turn the attackers hurled firebrands into the compound, setting some of the buildings inside on fire. Although many were wounded, the Parliamentarians gradually fought their way over the walls, pushing the garrison into the church.

Initially, the Irish defenders managed to protect the Church, holding off the attackers trying to get through the doors, but the Parliamentarians then placed numerous ladders against the many windows in the church and swarmed the building. For another half an hour fighting raged inside the church, until the depleted defenders retreated up the bell tower. Only sixty soldiers of the garrison remained at this point, and they thus accepted a call to surrender. However, after they had descended the tower and thrown their swords away, all were killed.

The sack

In the end all the soldiers (save a single major) and most of the civilians on the Rock were killed by the attackers. The Bishop and Mayor of Cashel along with a few others survived by taking shelter in a secret hiding place. Apart from these a few women were spared, after being stripped of their clothes, and a small number of wealthy civilians were taken prisoner, but these were the exceptions. Overall, close to 1,000 were killed,[3] amongst them Lieutenant-Colonel Butler and catholic scholar Theobald Stapleton. The bodies in the churchyard were described by a witness as being five or six deep.

The slaughter was followed by extensive plunder. There was much of value inside, for apart from pictures, chalices and vestments of the church, many of the slain civilians had also brought their valuables with them. The sword and mace of the mayor of Cashel, as well as the coach of the bishop were captured. The plunder was accompanied by acts of iconoclasm, with statues smashed and pictures defaced. The deserted town of Cashel was also torched.


The atrocity at Cashel caused a deep impact in Ireland, as it was the worst single atrocity committed in Ireland since the start of fighting in 1641. Previously, the most infamous massacre amongst the Catholic population was that at Timolin in 1643, when 200 civilians were killed by Ormonde’s English Royalist army, but many more than this were killed at Cashel, and the Rock of Cashel was one of the chief holy places of Ireland. The slaughter of the garrison at Cashel and the subsequent devastation of Catholic held Munster earned Inchiquin the Irish nickname, Murchadh na Dóiteáin or “Murrough of the Burnings”.[4]

The political ramifications in the Irish confederation were also profound, serving to exacerbate the split between the Catholic party headed by Giovanni Battista Rinuccini and those sympathetic to the Royalist lord Ormonde. The former were enraged by the attack, and desired retribution against Inchiquin and his army, but the Ormondist faction saw the Sack of Cashel and a subsequent raid by Inchiquin’s men into County Kilkenny as evidence of the futility of defending Ireland without Royalist support. In the short term, Lord Taffe came under intense pressure from the Confederate leadership to engage Inchiquin. When he did so in November, the politically divided and badly led Munster army was routed and destroyed at the Battle of Knocknanuss. This was the second Confederate army to be destroyed in less than six months, the Leinster Army having been annihilated at the battle of Dungans Hill in August.

In consequence, the Confederates had no option but to sign a truce with Inchiquin, an act which deeply alienated many Confederates and Catholic clergy, who had been appalled at Inchiquin’s brutal tactics in Munster. These divisions would lead to the brief but bloody Irish Confederate Civil War in 1648. Inchiquin withdrew his support for the English Parliament in the same year and entered with the Confederates into a Royalist alliance.

Despite the massacre, Inchiquin converted to Roman Catholicism while in exile in France 1656.

See also


  1. Cusack, Margaret Anne (1868). An Illustrated History of Ireland. p. 496. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  2. Meehan, Confederation of Kilkenny, pg 216
  3. Meehan, Confederation of Kilkenny,pg 227
  4. “A Compendium of Irish Biography”. 2 January 2007.


  • Meehan, C. P. (1882). Confederation of Kilkenny.
  • Stevenson, David (1980). Alasdair MacColla and the Highland problem in the seventeenth century. Edinburgh.
  • Manning, Roger, Oxford (2006), An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702
  • Inchiquin page