Glendalough is an Irish word meaning “The Valley of Two Lakes”. We spent all of today exploring this ancient valley, climbing on ruins of the buildings of this monastic community, and learning about Saint Kevin.
Kevin originally came to the Valley to live a life completely apart from the rest of the world. But other people heard about this holy man, so they asked him to start a community in which they could work, live, and pray together.
Our tour of Glendalough started in the ruins of the community. One main feature of many Irish towns is the round tower. It was originally used as a bell tower and storage house for valuable documents. It stretches far into the sky and from the top; one can see the view from miles around. From there we looked at several of the Celtic crosses atop the old gravestones. There is a theory that Irish crosses have the circle around them because when St. Patrick came to the island the people were worshipping the sun. Patrick really wanted to not completely get rid of the Irish culture when he introduced Christianity. So he incorporated this into his teaching of Christianity by putting the sun shape around the cross. Whether that is true or not, most of the crosses here have a circle around them. A lot of the gravestones also have the letters IHS on them, which are the first three letters for Jesus in Latin. Another headstone we found had a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. But since the Irish did not know what the Roman soldiers would have looked like, they portrayed them in outfits like the British Red Coats.
From there we went and looked at “St. Kevin’s Kitchen.” As our guide put it, the townspeople saw Kevin coming in and out of this building and saw smoke rising from the chimney. So they put 2 and 2 together to equal 5 and assumed it was a kitchen. In actuality it was a church. While we were standing inside we were decided to sing the doxology. It sounded amazing. I hope that becomes a new tradition as we visit more ancient churches.
After that we had the option to do a 5 mile hike around the Valley. Of course, I’m in! At the beginning there are 1, 057 stairs up the hill to the top. From there, you circle around to the far side of the upper lake before descending on the opposite side. The entire hike was beautiful. As I looked up at the mountains I was struck by the majesty of God. We are so small compared to them. But then when I think of how small they are compared to God, it just amazes me that he would care about our lives…. But he does! For reasons I still don’t understand, he loves us so much!
As we circled around the lake, we came across ruins of several other buildings. We had no idea what they were so we tried to stay with the theme of the valley. We had already seen St. Kevin’s Kitchen, his cross, and we knew where his “cell” (cave house) was. So we named the other buildings we found his laundry room, living room, and leisure center! That must have been one fit man to get around to all of his different buildings. I’m not going to lie; I am tired after that hike. It was a really good workout that we are all going to feel for the next couple days.