As well as Wicklow being the County of my birth - Glendalough is known as the home of one of the most important monistic sites in Ireland. It is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park. Long before it was known as a National Park- for thousands of years it had drawn visitors to its valley to view the ‘valley of the two lakes’ as well as taking part in the selection of walks, its spectacular scenery; rich history ; arachnology and abundant wildlife – it inspires the heart and fills the soul with peace. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful tranquil places in Ireland
St Kevin founded this settlement in the 6th Century and from there it grew and developed into a Monastic city [not that it is a city in present day terms] Kevin was said to have been from one of the ruling families in Leinster. From the age of seven, he was educated by St. Petroc of Cornwall, who had come to Leinster about 492, and lived with the monks until he was 12 years of age –guided and taught by three holy men- Eoghan; Lochan/Eanna. While still a student he had been brought to Glendalough and fell in love with its beauty / tranquillity / scenery and time for reflection .
Kevin next studied for the priesthood under his uncle, St. Eugenius, Bishop of Ardstraw, who at that time lived at Cell na Manach (Church of the Monks) in Wicklow, He would return to Glendalough after he had finished his studies for the Priesthood
Legends abound about St Kevin ; some have survived in some form through the ages from the 6th/7 th / 12th Centuries .For example, an Angel is said to have appeared as Kevin was about to be baptised and told his parents to name him Kevin .the local Priest was said to have heard the Angel also and said ; Kevin is what his name will be then – the Latin name being; [pulcher-genitus or the fair -begotton ]
As a baby it has been said that a mysterious white cow came to his parent’s farm door every morning and evening to and supplied the milk for the baby. When the baby no longer required only milk the cow mysteriously disappeared again.
He was said to have given sheep to people who told him they were hungry ; as he hand is father were counting the sheep later; he told his father that he had given some of them to hungry people ; yet on counting the sheep his father discovered that none were missing.
Another time his mother had made food for all the harvesters; a number of poor people came to the door asking for alms; Kevin gave them some food. Rebuked for this; he told told the men to fill all the ale jars with water and gather all the bare bones together. He then prayed alone for some time; by which time it has been said that the water had turned to ale and the bones were full of meat again – with enough meat and ale to fill the hungry harvesters.[ reminiscent of Jesus turning the water into wine ]
. Kevins writings discuss him ‘fighting his knights’ in Glendalough -scholars of today believe this refers to his process of self-examination and his personal temptations – citing the legend of him falling in love with a beautiful young woman called Kathleen with eyes of unholy blue ; despite the fact that he was bound by holy vows. He then repulsed her and she sought his forgiveness and it has been said she then turned into a holy woman noted for her sanctity and goodness/kindness.
His fame as a holy man flourished [called a hermit-priest] so much so that he attracted hugh numbers of people who would follow him; climbing up to his kitchen and bedroom on rough terrain by way of a pilgrimage and penitence . Glendalough has the Irish annals that contain reference to the abbots and raids on their settlement.
*Mythology has it that if anyone who can wrap his arms around St. Kevin's Cross at Glendalough will receive his wish. St. Kevin's Cross is a fine example of a plain cross, and it was carved from a single granite stone. It is over one meter across the arms. Its ring is very unusual, as it is not perforated at the intersection of the shaft and the arms.
* St Laurence O’Toole, born in 1128, became Abbot of Glendalough and was well known for his sanctity and hospitality. Even after his appointment as Archbishop of Dublin in 1162, he returned occasionally to Glendalough, to the solitude of St. Kevin's Bed ; climbing the same rough terrain as Kevin tracing his footstep .. He died in Eu, in Normandy in 1180.[
* In 1214, the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united. From that time the cultural and ecclesiastical status of Glendalough diminished. The destruction of the settlement by English forces in 1398 left it a ruin but it continued as a church of local importance and a place of pilgrimage
*Glendalough features on the 1598 map "A Modern Depiction of Ireland as One of the British Isles as Gladalag by Abranham as "Glandalag".
*Descriptions of Glendalough from the 18th and 19th centuries include references to occasions of "riotous assembly" which seen much of the settlement demolished on the feast of St. Kevin on 3 June.
*At the Synod of Rath Breasail in 1111, Glendalough was designated as one of the two dioceses of North Leinster.
* St Laurence O’Toole, born in 1128, became Abbot of Glendalough and was well known for his sanctity and hospitality. Even after his appointment as Archbishop of Dublin in 1162, he returned occasionally to Glendalough, to the solitude of St. Kevin's Bed ; climbing the same rough terrain as Kevin tracing his footstep .. He died in Eu in Normandy in 1180.
*In 1214, the dioceses of Glendalough and Dublin were united. From that time onwards, the cultural and ecclesiastical status of Glendalough diminished. The destruction of the settlement by English forces in 1398 left it a ruin but it continued as a church of local importance and a place of pilgrimage .
The present structural remains in Glendalough tell only a small part of its story. The monastery in its heyday included workshops, areas for manuscript writing and copying, guest houses, an infirmary, farm buildings and dwellings for both the monks and a large lay population. The buildings which survive probably date from between the 10th and 12th centuries.