Wicklow (Irish: Cill Mhantáin, meaning ‘church of the toothless one’) is the county town of County Wicklow and the capital of the Mid-East Region in Ireland and is located south of Dublin on the east coast of the island.
Within the county of Wicklow is Glendalough (Irish: Gleann Dá Loch, meaning ‘Valley of two lakes’) a glacial valley renowned for an early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin.
Kevin, who was a descendant of one of the ruling families in Leinster, studied as a boy under the care of 3 holy men – Eoghan, Lochan, and Eanna. During this time, he went to Glendalough. He was to return later, with a small group of monks to found a monastery where the ‘two rivers form a confluence’.
Kevin’s writings discuss his fighting ‘knights’ at Glendalough; scholars today believe this refers to his process of self-examination and his personal temptations. His fame as a holy man spread and he attracted numerous followers. He died in about 618.
For six centuries afterwards, Glendalough flourished and the Irish Annals contain references to the deaths of abbots and raids on the settlement.
Around 1042, oak timber from Glendalough was used to build the second longest (30m) Viking longship ever recorded. A modern replica of that ship was built in 2004 and is currently located in Roskilde, Denmark.
Descriptions of Glendalough from the 18th and 19th centuries include references to occasions of ‘riotous assembly’ on the feast of St. Kevin on 3 June.
The present remains at Glendalough tell only a small part of its story. The monastery in its heyday included workshops, areas for manuscript writing and copying, guest houses, an infirmary, farm buildings and dwellings for both the monks and a large lay population. The buildings which survive probably date from between the 10th and 12th centuries.