The Witch of Kilkenny

2015-09-08T12:29:07+00:009 September 2015|Ireland, Quirky corners, Travel through time|

It’s raining out, a wet, chilly June day, typical in Ireland, I’m told. To escape the weather, I’ve popped in to Kyteler’s Inn in Kilkenny, to the cavernous cellar.

Kilkenny witch, Kyteler's Inn

Kyteler’s Inn has been a lively, merry place since its first owner bandied about here 700 years ago. Looks like it still is.

There’s no mobile connection here in the cellar. That’s as it should be. Instead of restlessly fiddling with my mobile, I dig out a pen, order tea and ask for extra serviettes to scribble on.

I’m about to add Canderel to my tea, but then I stop. Artificial sweetener feels wrong here in this extraordinary historic environment. Kyteler’s Inn, you see, has been around since the 1200s. At least.

The most famous proprietor was one Dame Alice de Kyteler, a merry widow who annoyed the authorities by being, well, merry. In 1324, their patience with this jolly old girl was worn out. So angry were they, they accused her of witchcraft. Alice might very well have been the first ever to face this infamous allegation.

Sadly, she wasn’t the last. During the following centuries, more than a million were accused in Europe. Later, North America followed suit. Most were tortured and executed as a result. Most were women.

Kilkenny witch

Instead of sweetener, I add honey to my tea, hoping Dame Alice might have approved.

I toy with the idea that she might have done the same; 800 years ago, just here, perhaps even in this very cellar. But she didn’t, of course. In Dame Alice’s day, tea hadn’t yet found its way to these shores. Instead, it was a well-kept secret in the Far East. Honey, however, is another story. Mead, which is essentially fermented honey and water, was frequently and copiously enjoyed by my ancestors, the Vikings, a few centuries before Dame Alice.

So what happened to the Kilkenny Witch?

In 1324, Alice was 61 years old. She had had four husbands, all dead. That was the excuse her enemies needed: surely all these dead husbands must mean she had poisoned them?

Fortunately, Alice had friends in high places. She was warned of impending doom and managed to escape across the Irish Sea to England – and possibly further. She was never heard of again.

Her housemaid Petronilla, however, was not so lucky. Poor Petronilla suffered the worst fate of all – she was ‘examined’ (read: whipped through the streets), then burned at the stake.

In the Inn you can see a bronze model of Alice, created by local sculptor Ani Mollereau.

And on a totally unrelated note (or is it?), in the street outside Kyteler’s Inn, just a wee bit further along, there’s all kinds of fabulous spooky street art, such as the piece below, by the talented Mick Minogue.


Disclosure? None at all. I just like a place with a curious history.

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  1. Tricia 9 September 2015 at 2029 - Reply

    I love reading your description of the inn! I feel like I am almost there. Learning the history of the places you visit give them so much more meaning. I definitely plan to visit Ireland someday, and can’t wait to visit places like this.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1706 - Reply

      Love a place with a cool story 🙂

  2. Gilla 10 September 2015 at 0639 - Reply

    Great post!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1706 - Reply

      Thanks, Gilla 🙂

  3. Muza-chan 10 September 2015 at 1302 - Reply

    Interesting story…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1706 - Reply


  4. Ana O 14 September 2015 at 2234 - Reply

    The infamous pen-and-serviettes duo 🙂
    It is indeed an interesting story. And I want to be in that cellar right now.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1709 - Reply

      Ah yes, the pen and serviette duo. Never fails 🙂

  5. Adam 18 September 2015 at 1940 - Reply

    It’s possible she did indeed poison her husbands, but what if it was bad luck (more possible, imo)? Poor woman, and even worse luck for her housekeeper!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1712 - Reply

      Indeed 🙂

  6. Stephen Garone 19 September 2015 at 2142 - Reply

    Nice! I really enjoyed Kilkenny, but I missed this one altogether. Guess I’ll have to go back!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 20 September 2015 at 1712 - Reply

      Can’t visit Ireland too may times 🙂

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