Effigies in St. Canice’s Cathedral , County Kilkenny

Effigies in St. Canice’s Cathedral , County Kilkenny

The effigies in St. Canice’s Cathedral are a must see on your tours of Ireland and tell the story of two how, by the 15th Century , two families descended from the Norman invaders had come to dominate most of Irish life. These were the Fitzgeralds (‘Geraldines’) and the Butlers. The Great Earl of Kildare , Gearoid Mor Fitzgerald , was viceroy and ruled Ireland almost like a King. The two most celebrated of his children were Gearoid Og , who succeeded him in the Earldom , and his daughter Margaret.

In 1485 , Margaret married the ambitious Piers Butler (known as Piaras Rua) , who was an aspirant to the rival Earldom of Ormond. The young couple were still in their teens and , with Geraldine assistance , Piaras Rua did in fact become 8th Earl of Ormond. He did not repay his in-laws with kindness , however , but did all in his power to destroy them. By skilfully taking the English side in disputes , he eventually succeeded.

Piaras became famous for his ambition and shrewdness , while Margaret (Know as Mairead Ni Ghearoid) was a commanding figure – tall , beautiful , and intensely loyal to her husband. Some of her contemporaries considered her extremely greedy , while others praised her ‘hospitality and munificence’.

Later folklore took the negative view , considering her to be hot tempered and avaricious. It is said that she loved to accumulate land and other property , and often paid ‘courtesy calls’ to local landowners with this in mind. Such visits by her were much feared , since she had a craving appetite , and she tended to outstay her welcome and impoverish the unfortunate host. Piaras Rua died in 1539 and Mairead three years later. They are buried together in St. Canice’s Cathedral. The tomb is surmounted by fine effigies of them in high relief.

To find out more about their history and visit the tombs in St. Canice’s Cathedral contact us now to organise your tours of Ireland.