St. Kevin

     This is Kevin, the founder of the monastic settlement at Glendalough in Co Wicklow. Year by year, his community of monks increases, and the tide of recruits shows no sign of turning.

What an inspiration Kevin has been to these men, with his life given over to prayer, and yet, he didn't set out to inspire anyone. He came here to be alone with God, away from the world and all its distractions.

Kevin comes from noble stock - his ancestors once ruled the eastern province of Leinster - and he was baptised by the holy man, Crónán. He came here from the monastery in Killnamanagh in County Dublin, where he first went to become a monk.

Obviously, Killnamanagh was not so much a destination for Kevin, as a point of departure. What he learned up there has spurred him on in his search for God, to embrace the simple life of the ascetic, which he continues to do to this day.

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     What does such a life involve? Basically, minimal attention to physical needs. The working principle is that the attention needs of the body recede with denial, leaving the hermit free to devote himself more fully to the hunger of the spirit. It's certainly not for the faint hearted!

When Kevin first came here, he lived on a sparse vegetarian diet, and slept out of doors with no shelter. His only companions were the birds of the air and the creatures of the woodland, and this solitude suited his purpose perfectly. In the silence of this magnificent setting, Kevin's spirit soared.

There are stories told by people around here about the extraordinary affinity Kevin developed with the world of nature during his time alone here. There's the one about the blackbird building her nest in his outstretched hands as he prayed, and even better, the otter that rescued his psalter from the lake waters!

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     You can take these stories with a pinch of salt if you like, but what people are trying to say, is how happy and fulfilled Kevin was in all of this, and more importantly, how radiant and attractive he appeared in his simple life. Charismatic in the best sense of the word.

Little wonder that other young men should have gravitated towards his radical lifestyle. And so began the ironic development of community growing up around a man who came here for solitude. And they continue to come.


Kevin is an old man now but he still treasures his moments of quiet. Whenever possible, he slips away to his grotto overlooking the upper lake, to give his time to prayer. By the look of things, this is an ancient tomb, but it's just right for Kevin. Here he finds God amid the solitude, the way he always intended, when he first arrived from Killnamanagh all those years ago.

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