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Travel Feature: Glendalough, Ireland: Monastic Ruins Draw Modern-Day Trippers

By Teresa Cheong, Lifebridges Communications. This Singapore freelance copywriter reflects on her trip to Ireland and an ancient monk's spiritual legacy in this travel feature.

Travel Article on Glendalough, Ireland









WHEN Irish monk, St Kevin founded a monastic settlement in Glendalough, Ireland – a picture-perfect valley overlooked by the majestic Wicklow mountains some 1,500 years ago, I suspect the hermit monk would never have imagined his wooded hermitage to become a favourite haunt for picnicking families and bus loads of day tourists - fifteen centuries later.

What would the hermit monk say to the 500,000 visitors who now flock yearly to the once revered, monastic capital of Europe? Fortunately, the weekend crowds stayed close to the nearby lake and stayed away from the monastic ruins.

My first visit to Glendalough, Ireland was many years ago. Memories of the surreal peace and tranquillity surrounding the monastic ruins still held me spellbound today.

Contemplative walk among the ruins

Among the ruins were a 1,000-year old Round Bell Tower where monks used as a defence against the Vikings. Behind the church ruins were a cemetry of moss-dusted ancient Celtic crosses. I walked in reverent silence among the stone ruins of the monks’ living quarters and pilgrim cells. I imagined a time five centuries ago when the whole Glendalough Valley hummed and reverberated with the hypnotic rosary chants of hundreds and hundreds of monks and pilgrims.

History of Glendalough, Ireland

The well-preserved ruins tell of the rise and fall of a religious and scholarly community that was a magnet for thousands of scripture scholars and students from different parts of Christian Europe. Glendalough was the ‘Harvard School of Divinity’ par excellence, founded barely 500 years after the death of Jesus Christ.

Despite frequent raids from ferocious Vikings, the monastic community survived and even flourished until the Normans from France destroyed it in the early 13th century.  After 700 years of existence, the monastic community declined, lost its appeal, and fell into decay until restoration works started in 1878.

History chronicled Saint Kevin as a royal descendant from the House of Leinster which once ruled Glendalough  and southeastern Ireland from the 5th century. The reportedly handsome young man had no shortage of female attention, but he gave up a life of privilege to pursue a spiritual calling to be a hermit monk.

In AD498, he founded a monastery in the Glendalough Valley which at the height of its fame, was a pilgrimage centre, and home to over 200 monks and 2000 scholars.



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Copyright 2009-2013 Teresa Cheong. All Rights Reserved.

Teresa Cheong is a professional freelance copywriter, web writer and business writer based in Singapore. She takes pride in creating quality
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