Just before St. Kevin’s Church are the remains of St. Kieran’s Church. These remains were only discovered in 1875. The church is probably dedicated to St. Kieran who is more famed for founding the wonderful monastic site at Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly. Clonmacnoise had strong connections to Glendalough during the 10th century.
St. Kevin’s Church (also known strangely as St. Kevin’s Kitchen) is one of Glendalough’s most impressive buildings. It is quite an unusual church when compared to other early Christian Ireland churches mainly due to its strange looking round bell tower.
Originally the building only had a small nave with one door and one small window but the church was later expanded to include a chancel (which no longer exists) and a sacristy. The steep stone roof holds a croft which had a wooden floor and was accessed through an opening in the eastern part of the floor. The small ‘mini round tower’ belfry rises from the western end of the building and many believe this small tower is what gave the church its nickname of ‘St. Kevin’s Kitchen’ because approaching visitors supposedly mistook the tower for a chimney and presumed the building must therefore be a cook house!
Another interesting and well restored and preserved building at the Glendalough monastic site is the Priest’s House. The original purpose of this building is not known for sure but it may have housed relics of St. Kevin. The building got its name from its function as a place for burying priests here during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Romanesque building has a fine decorative Romanesque march and there are several old gravestones and tombs inside the building itself.
The building has been heavily restored but originality has been ensured by studying and imitating the details shown in many fine sketches made by Beranger in 1779.
One of Ireland’s most unusual and largest high crosses can be seen at Glendalough. The huge cross is carved from one single piece of granite. The cross is unusual in that it is not pierced through the ring like most Irish High Crosses. (In other words there is no opening through the ring of stone intersecting the haft and arms of the cross. This is certainly the only high cross I have seen in Ireland that is unpierced like this. The arms of the cross are over a metre in length.
A local legend surrounding the St. Kevin’s Cross at Glendalough says that anyone who can wrap their arms around the entire width of the cross body will have their wishes granted.
The Cathedral is the largest building in the monastic city of Glendalough. The Cathedral was built in several stages with the earliest part being the existing nave and antae. The chancel and sacristy were added later between the 12th and 13th centuries. The main doorway also dates from this time. Under the window to the south is a stone basin used for washing sacred vessels and there is also a small aumbry in the wall.
The stones used in the building of the nave were from an earlier church.
The gateway into the monastic city of Glendalough is the only surviving example of its kind in Ireland. You can easily imagine the full scale of the gateway into the compound not only from the impressive remains but from surviving evidence indicating the full extent of the gateways architecture and structure. The graceful stone arches of the gateway is flanked on both sides by what would have originally been a set of two-storeyed gate houses/towers. Inside the gateway is an inscribed stone which indicated the boundary of the monastic site and the beginning of Glendalough place of refuge and spirituality. A paved pathway leads up from the gateway towards the Cathedral and Round Tower.
The most famous landmark of Glendalough is surely its tall and impressive round tower. The 30 metre high tower is said to have been built between the 10th and 12th centuries and is built of slate and granite. The conical roof of the tower underwent full rebuilding in 1876, but was done so using the original stones of the tower which had been severely damaged over the centuries, most significantly by English forces in 1398. The tower originally had six floors which could be accessed using ladders leading from each floor to the next. Like most of Ireland’s early Christian round towers, the doorway is placed well above head level (3.5 metres in this case). This prevented intruders from gaining easy access to the tower. Once inside, the monks could pull up the entrance ladder to make it difficult for attackers to enter the tower. Round Towers in general had several functions, namely as storehouses, bell towers, look out points, places of refuse during attack and prominent guidance landmarks for pilgrims and visitors.
photos from our stay in GL......
The Afternoon Ramble
Glendalough is all about the giant mountains surrounding two beautiful lakes down in the valley and the nine hiking trails laid out by the park service. Ranging from 45 minutes “easy” walk to a four-hour mountain hike, there is a route to challenge everyone and every skill level. The trails are well mapped and marked.
Of course, our one-hour ramble somehow merged into the three and one-half hour “white” trail along the upper lake shore, through pine trees, up to the boulders and rocks of the ancient miners’ village ruins. We climbed stone steps up to the top of the hill and found a waterfall (a rest stop at last), over a wooden foot bridge, then across one mile of Irish blanket bog, which we traversed via two wooden railroad ties laid the long way, tied together for as far as you could see. Warning signs indicated that the dangerous cliff-side paths and areas should only be climbed by “well equipped” hikers. We didn’t even have bottles of water. Then we encountered the famous 600 steps going straight downwards to the lower lake – a real knee breaker. The trees got so dense that the sun never made it through to the paths. Along the way we encountered feral goats and saw a falcon. We drank out of the mountain stream without any ill effects. After hiking the scenic trail, we found the famous Poulanass waterfalls, beautiful and wheelchair-accessible.
photos from our trip/////
Probably the highlight of this trip was the time spent in Glendalough, “the valley of two lakes,” set in the national park part of the Wicklow Mountains. It is also known as the “valley of the saints” because St. Kevin established a monastic village here in the 6th century, the ruins of which remain today. Everything is called St. Kevin’s… St Kevin’s round tower, St. Kevin’s chapel, St. Kevin’s kitchen, etc.
Great Irish Foods
At the Glendalough lodge, we drank South African Chenin Blancs and ate Irish stew, cod pie, and a “loin of bacon” over buttered cabbage. (Bacon seems to be the term used for any pork dish.) The waitress at the Glendalough lodge was from Poland! In Laragh, a highlight was a fantastic chicken pate over greens with a brandy and red onion marmalade. We had roasted chicken with leeks and bacon (read ham) in a mushroom & whiskey cream sauce. Along the way, we tasted potato leek soup with soda bread, and thickest cut fries/chips yet.
Actually this is 11th century church not a kitchen. It looks like it has been rebuilt later as I can’t believe the church is survived so intact from the beginning. It has a small round tower which looks very interesting.