A question often asked when visitors view the Penal Chapel is whether it is an original Penal Chapel or not. The answer is that it is not an original Penal Chapel; however, it is still a very ancient and historic religious building. St. John the Baptist’s Catholic Church in Cashel is one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Ireland, dating back to 1795. But, before the Catholic Church was built on its current site you originally had in situ a 13th century Franciscan abbey, known as Hackett’s Abbey. The Penal Chapel was constructed largely from the stones/rubble of that 13th century abbey.
In the chapel itself you now have a very rare collection of original religious memorabilia dating back over the last 300 years; much of what is inside here will not be found anywhere else in Ireland. Also, on your way into the chapel, there is a large information chart detailing the specifics of what was contained in the actual Penal Laws Statute. It makes for very sombre reading, but is nevertheless essential reading if you want a more in-depth comprehension of what the Penal Laws really meant to the Catholic, and by extension Protestant, communities in this country. It should also give a better understanding of the current situation in Northern Ireland i.e. certain historical baggage which still carries on to this day, albeit, and very thankfully for everyone concerned, we are hopefully nearer to a final peaceful resolution to that conflict than we have ever been in the past.