Saint Kevin of Glendalough

 

Born 498 Ireland

Died 3 June 618

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Kevin lived the life of a hermit there with an extraordinary closeness to nature. His companions were the animals and birds all around him. He lived as a hermit for seven years wearing only animal skins, sleeping on stones and eating very sparingly. He went barefoot, and spent his time in prayer. Disciples were soon attracted to Kevin and a further settlement enclosed by a wall, called Kevin's Cell, was established nearer the lakeshore. By 540 Saint Kevin's fame as a teacher and holy man had spread far and wide. Many people came to seek his help and guidance. In time Glendalough grew into a renowned seminary of saints and scholars and the parent of several other monasteries.

In 544 Kevin went to the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath to visit the holy abbots, Sts. ColumbaComgall and Cannich.

 

He then proceeded to Clonmacnoise, where St. Cieran had died 3 days before. Having firmly established his community, he retired into solitude for four years, and only returned to Glendalough at the earnest entreaty of his monks. Until his death around 618 Kevin presided over his monastery in Glendalough, living his life by fasting, praying and teaching. St Kevin is one of the patron saints of the diocese of Dublin. He belonged to the second order of Irish saints. [Eventually, Glendalough, with its seven churches, became one of the chief pilgrimage destinations in Ireland.

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Saint Kevin and the Blackbird

 

While avoiding  society, St Kevin during the season of Lent, as his custom was, devoted his time to reading and prayers. He was occupying a small hut which did nothing but keep out the sun and rain. There he was giving himself up to contemplation only.

While he was lifting up his hand to heaven through the window, as he used to do, a blackbird by chance alighted on it, and treating it as a nest, laid an egg there. And the Saint showed such compassion towards it, out of his patient and loving heart, that he neither closed his hand nor withdrew it, but indefatigably held it out and adapted it for the purpose until the young one was fully hatched.


 

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St. Kevin's Bed

Kevin was ordained by Bishop Lugidus and, following his ordination, he moved on to Glendalough in order to avoid the company of his followers. He lived as a hermit in a cave (a Bronze Age tomb now known as St. Kevin's Bed), to which he was led, in the account of the Vita, by an angel.

St. Kevin's Bed can best be described as a man-made cave cut in the rock face very close to the edge of the mountain. It overlooks the upper lake from a height of about 30 feet (10 metres). The approach to the cave is very difficult, with access to it through a rectangular space and a short passageway 3 ft. (1 metre) high and 2½ ft. wide. The inner or main part of the cave is just 4 ft. wide (1.5 metres) and less than 3 ft.(1 metre) high. It is reasonable to assume that the cave could only have been used as a sleeping place, and would have been impossible for an adult to stand upright in, so it is quite likely that St Kevin only used it as his bed, or a place for pious prayer or meditation. Dr. Leask expresses the opinion that this cave was constructed long before Kevin's time and it was probably the first and oldest piece of work to be undertaken by man in the glen.

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