Posts Tagged ‘county wicklow’

Last night, a friend of mine passed away. She was on the trip to Ireland I took in 2009, and she was a follower of this blog. I didn’t have the opportunity to know her nearly as long or as well as many others, but I treasured the time I did have with her. I am reposting something I wrote last year about a place we both enjoyed visiting very much. Rest in peace, Mary.

Glendalough Visitor Centre

While in Ireland last year, I visited Glendalough, the site of a medieval monastic settlement.

Gate to Glendalough


Glendalough, or “the valley of the two lakes,” is about an hour south of Dublin in County Wicklow. The monastery there was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Kevin died in about 618 AD, but the monastery flourished until it was destroyed by English troops in 1398. The church continued to operate after the monastic settlement was disbanded. The buildings that remain in ruins date to the 1100s and 1200s.

St. Kevin's Church


I was anticipating seeing medieval buildings and maybe a few surviving grave slabs or monuments, which was exciting enough. But when we entered the gate, we found tombstones that date from well after 1398.


Glendalough, being a the final resting place of a saint, continued to be a popular place for burial, even as the buildings fell to ruins. Tombstones were everywhere. They were attached to the remaining stones walls that used to be chapels and churches.


Grave slabs and fallen tombstones lined the floor of the former cathedral.


Tombstones were interspersed with the buildings, right up against them, falling over themselves to squeeze as many as possible into the sacred ground.

Stone and wall
Multiple generations of families would have a common marker, with new names added to the bottom until they ran out of family or ran out of space.


Byrnes and Healys

Glendalough feels both peaceful and isolated, an island of quiet where one can go to contemplate the spiritual surrounded by generations before who found the same tranquility so compelling that they chose to spend eternity there.

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Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Celtic crosses marking the graves at Glendalough in County Wicklow. When you first approach the gate, the tallest monument inside the complex is a majestic Celtic cross with a bit of moss now growing on it.

As you turn the bend to the right, you come to more Celtic crosses, including a monument to theLaurence Kavanaugh and his children which has a corpus inside the Celtic cross. This was something I had never encountered before I visited Ireland.

Kavanagh Tombstone

Another family of Kavanaghs rests nearby, also memoralized with a Celtic cross.

I took some more detailed shots of the distinctly Irish motifs on this Kavanagh marker.


The final Celtic cross on our walk today is nicknamed St. Kevin’s cross. It is reputed to mark the final resting place of St. Kevin, the founder of the monastic settlement. Although not definitive proof of Kevin’s burial, our guide told us that there is evidence an older, medieval burial there.
St. Kevin's cross

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Not surprisingly, there were Celtic crosses everywhere in Glendalough. Inside the Visitor’s Centre, there were old grave slaves on display:

Grave slab in Visitor Centre at Glendalough

Grave slab and bullaun stone in Glendalough Visitor Centre

Stone cross

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