Thursday, December 6, 2012
St. Kevin's Church, Glendalough Co. Wicklow
St. Kevins Church at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow is more commonly referred to as St. Kevins Kitchen, as the belfry on top of the roof has the appearance of a chimney on an old fashioned stove. This is one of a very small group of stone vaulted and roofed churches in Ireland dating to the 12th Century, and is a very fine example of this type.
This church probably stands on the site of an earlier wooden church. These early churches were known as dairtheachs in Gaelic. This means oak house and these churches were made of oak planks. The oak tree was considered to be a sacred tree according to traditional pagan beliefs and this continues into early medieval times, again showing the connection between nature and the early Christian church in Ireland.
This church was Dedicated to St. Kevin. The main part of the church was likely to have been constructed in the later part of the twelfth century. The tower is a later addition. Both were constructed from locally quarried mica-shist rock, with the roof consisting of large stones laid horizontally and overlapping each other and bonded together by a lime and sand mortar.
A small arch was incorporated into the construction to help distribute the weight of the stone roof. The space created by the arch was floored with wooden planks to create a room above the nave that is likely to have been used as living quarters. This level also granted access into the belfry to ring the bells to call the faithful to prayers.
Although the church looks quite dark and damp inside today, when it was in use it was likely to have been plastered and whitewashed and then painted in vividly coloured murals that depicted key scenes from the bible or the life of St. Kevin. When illuminated with beeswax and tallow candles the church would have been an atmospheric and engaging place to pray, murals and painted illustrations also helped the largely illiterate population understand the stories of the bible.
You can hear more about the beautiful site of Glendalough by downloading our audioguide.