‘Were you at the Rock?’: The History of Mass Rocks in Ireland le Tony Nugent

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The Irish landscape is dotted with sites which are generally known as Carraig-an-Aifrinn, or Mass Rocks. These important antiquities date from the Penal Days, when Catholics were forbidden to attend mass, to undertake pilgrimages to their sacred places or even bury their dead as custom dictated. This meant they had to resort to secluded places unknown to the authorities to practise their faith. They congregated at natural flat-topped rocks, or where none was available, a flat slab was erected and utilised as an altar by a visiting priest. With numerous photographs and maps, this book relates the history, location, folklore and legend of these Mass Rocks, which are peculiar to Ireland. Although the time scale of these sites is usually given as the Penal Days (1695-1829), they actually came into use during the suppression of the monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII and continued to be used until the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829, and even later when poverty and bigotry led to continued persecution. Due to the urbanisation of the countryside, the redistribution of the native population, emigration and other factors, the location and history of these sites is in danger of being lost forever. Indeed, in researching this book the author became aware of many that have already been lost to posterity. 'Were You at the Rock?' is a welcome and invaluable record of this important aspect of Irish history and heritage.

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