Peel Castle is a castle in Peel, Isle of Man originally constructed by Vikings. The castle stands on St Patrick’s Isle which is connected to the town by causeway. It is now owned by Manx National Heritage and is open to visitors during the summer.
The castle was built in the 11th century by the Vikings, under the rule of KingMagnus Barelegs. While there were older stone Celtic monastic buildings on the island, the first Viking fortifications were built of wood. The prominent round tower was originally part of the Celtic monastery, but has had battlements added at a later date. In the early 14th century, the majority of the walls and towers were built primarily from local red sandstone, which is found abundantly in the area. After the rule of the Vikings, the castle continued to be used by the church due to the cathedral built there – the see of Sodor Diocese – but was eventually abandoned in the 18th century.
The castle remained fortified and new defensive positions were added as late as 1860. The buildings within the castle are now mostly ruined, but the outer walls remain intact. Excavations in 1982-87 revealed an extensive graveyard as well as the remains of Magnus Bareleg’s original wooden fort. The most spectacular finds were the 10th century grave of “The Pagan Lady” which included a fine example of a Viking necklace and a cache of silver coins dating from about 1030. The Castle’s most famous “resident” is the so called Moddey Dhoo or Black Dogghost.
Peel Castle features today on the reverse side of the £10 notes issued by the Isle of Man Government.
Photo : Peel Castle – gatehouse and keep. Author – Ruth Riddle
The cathedral ruins located within the walls of Peel Castle are those of the former Cathedral of St. German. Like the structures throughout the castle grounds, the cathedral’s roof is completely missing. An examination by Robert Anderson to determine what repairs were required to restore the cathedral was completed and reported to the island’s lieutenant governor in 1877. However, none of the suggested repairs were carried out. A pointed barrel-vaulted crypt exists below the chancel measuring 34 feet by 16 feet by 9 feet high at the west end, sloping to the entrance at the east. In the middle of the transept is the tomb where Bishop Rutter was interred in 1661. A cemetery exists in what was once the cathedral’s nave. In 1980 the parish of German, part of the Church of England’s Diocese of Sodor and Man, was officially transferred to the newer Cathedral Church of St German on Albany Road in Peel.
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