Celtic and Old English Saints          3 June

* St. Kevin of Glendalough
* St. Cronan the Tanner
* St. Glunshallaich

St. Kevin of Glendalough, Abbot
(Coaimhghin, Coemgen, Keivin)

Born at Fort of the White Fountain in Leinster, Ireland; died c. 618.
Kevin was born of Irish royalty, but that doesn't tell us much because
there were as many kings in Ireland as there were saints in Cornwall. He
was baptized as Kevin or Coemgen, which means the "Fair-begotten" by
Saint Cronan. As a boy he was sent to be educated at a monastery, where
he was fortunate enough to be a pupil of Saint Petroc of Cornwall, who
was then in Ireland. Kevin is best remembered as the abbot-founder of
Glendalough, County Wicklow, one of the most famous abbeys of Ireland.
After his ordination he settled as a hermit in the scenic Valley of the
Two Lakes by the Upper Lake, led there by an angel. This is at a place
now marked by a cave called "Saint Kevin's Bed," which was formerly a
Bronze Age tomb that he reused, and the Teampull na Skelling (the rock
church). After seven years as a solitary living on nettles and herbs, he
was persuaded to founded a monastery at Disert-Coemgen for the many
disciples he attracted. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and brought back
many relics for his foundation.
When the number who gathered around him became too numerous for the
site, the monastery was moved after his death (at age 120) down to the
Lower Lake. Still more churches were added to the east of the site
during the abbacy of Laurence O'Toole. Glendalough has always been a
popular pilgrimage site.

Kevin's extant vita may be based on actual facts although the earliest
was recorded about 400 years after his death. He is said to have fed his
community for some time on salmon supplied by an otter. (Unfortunately,
one of the monks wanted to make a
pair of warm gloves out of the otter's hide; the otter guessed what was
on his mind and was careful never to appear again!) He visited Saint
Ciaran of Clonmacnoise just before his death and Ciaran gave him his
bell. (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Gill,
Montague, White).

"Wandering by himself though lonely places, the blessed Kevin came one
day upon a glen set in a hollow of the hills and lovely with running
water. For there were two lakes, and clear streams here and there
flowing down from the mountains. And he went up the valley to the head
of the glen where it narrows; there is a lake there, and the mountains
very high above it; it lies at their feet, and they rise from its very
verge. This valley used to be called in the Irish Glen De, but now it is
called Glen da Lough, that is the glen of the two lakes. And Saint Kevin
settled himself beside the lake in a hollow tree and lived in these
strait quarters for some while. Now and then he would go out to gather a
few herbs and eat them, and drink a little water. And so he lived, for
many days.

"Now a herd from a neighbouring farm (the master's name was Bi) would
some days bring his cows to pasture in this valley, where Saint Kevin
lived as a hermit. And God, being minded to show His servant Kevin to
men, made a cow from that herd
come daily to Saint Kevin in his hollow; and it would lick the Saint's
clothes. And towards evening when she would hear the lowing of the herd
returning, sated with green grass and well watered, and the high
shouting of the herdsmen driving their beasts, she would hurry to the
front of the herd, content with her own pasture.

"And every day as the herd made its way from the lap of the mountain
into the valley, that cow would steal away from the rest, and come to
the man of God. And every day she did as on the first day. And that cow
had abundance of milk past belief, from the touch of the garments of the
man of God. And the byremen, marvelling at the rich streams of milk from
her, spoke of it to the master. And he said to the herdsman, 'Do you
know what has come to that cow?' The herd knew nothing of it and his
master said, 'Keep a close eye on her, and see where she gets her good
favour from.'

"So the next day the herdsman left his charge to the youngsters and
himself followed after the cow, wherever she went. And the cow took her
wonted track to the hollow tree, in which Saint Kevin lived. And the
herdsman, finding her licking the Saint's coat, stood agape; and then he
fell to threatening the cow, and miscalling the man of God as a
countryman might.

"And the Saint was ill-pleased, for he feared that the man would betray
his presence there. And then the herdsman drove the beasts home to the
byre. But when they had got tot he farm, the cows and calves fell into
such a frenzy that the mothers did not know their own calves and would
have killed them. The herdsman, terrified, told his master what he had
seen in the valley, and at his bidding, came straight back to Saint
Kevin, and fell on his knees and begged God's Saint to grant him his

"The Saint adjured him, and he vowed not to betray him; for Saint Kevin
did not know that the story was already told. The man had his pardon,
and was given holy water; and when he sprinkled it on the cows and
calves, they recognised one another with the old love between them, and
were tame again on the spot. But the fame of Saint Kevin was carried
over the whole countryside. And it came to the ears of some of the older
saints, Eogan and Lochan and Enna, that Saint Kevin was in that deserted
valley; and they took him away with them, against his will, to his
monastery. . . ." (Plummer).

In the end Saint Kevin went back to the place where he had been a hermit
in his youth and built a monastery there for those who followed him. He
went off by himself, about a mile away, and built a hut for his
dwelling. He forbade the monks to visit him unless it was urgent. He had
the wild animals for company.

.........Kevin probably discovered this cave when he went to that area
to start a new church. When they reached the village then called Cnoc
Rua ("RedHill"), they found their way blocked by a woods, and they
"Why did you stop?" said Kevin.
"There are trees in the way," they said.
"Don't worry," Kevin told them. "Just keep walking."
They walked toward the woods, and the trees fell down in front of them
to make a road. Kevin blessed the wood and promised "hell and a short
life to any one who should burn either green wood or dry from this wood
till doom". That is how the village got its name, Holy Wood ("Sanctum
Nemus" in medieval records), which by the 16th century became Hollywood.
It is also called "Cillнn Chaoibhнn" in Irish, which means "Kevin's

After seven years Kevin built himself an oratory of osiers and still
lived alone. One day the huntsmen of the King of Leinster, Brandubh,
came into the glen with hounds following a boar. The boar sought refuge
in Kevin's oratory, but the hounds did not follow him in. Instead, they
lay on their chests outside, before the gate.

"And there was Kevin praying under a tree, and a crowd of birds perched
on his shoulders and his hands, and flitting about him, singing to the
Saint of God. The huntsman looked; and dumbfounded he took his way back
with his hounds, and for the sake of the holy solitary's blessing, let
the boar go free. He told the marvel that he had seen to the King and to
all of them.
And there were times that the boughs and the leaves of the trees would
sing sweet songs to Saint Kevin, that the melody of heaven might lighten
his sore travail" (Plummer).

"Colman, son of Carbri, chief of the fourth of the men of northern
Leinster, in his youth took to wife a woman of rank, but since their
habits did in no way agree, sent her away, and took another in her
place. Now the woman thus dismissed was wise and dangerous in the magic
arts, and being passionate against her husband, Colman, the chief, she
brought to death all the children of the other by her incantations; for
as soon as she heard that a son or daughter had been born to him, she
would come from wherever she was to stand over the dun where the child
lay, and sing magic songs, until the little creature was dead.

"So, when a little son was born to him in his old age, he was
straightway baptized, lest he should die through her witchcraft
unchristened; and he was called Faolain. And then the chief his father
sent him to Saint Kevin, that he might protect him by the strength of
God from this woman, and bring him up in the ways of the world. And he
offered him to Saint Kevin, promising that he and his seed after him
should be buried by the house of Saint Kevin for ever, and should serve
him, if Faolain should escape alive.

"And so Saint Kevin took the child gladly, and brought him up as a
layman should be, even as his father had said; and he loved him dearly.
But Saint Kevin knew not where to look for new milk to feed the small
babe, because women and cows were far from his monastery; and he prayed
to God to give him some assistance in the matter. And God sent Saint
Kevin a doe from the mountain near by, and on her milk the babe Faolain
was reared. Twice a day until the child was grown, the doe would come to
Saint Kevin's monastery, and there be milked by one of the brethren, and
go back in all gentleness to her pasture.

[Another version tells us that the doe was killed by a she-wolf. When
Kevin saw this, he commanded the wolf to provide the milk and the wolf

"But there came a day when the brother, milking her out of doors, set
down the vessel with the milk on the ground; and up came a greedy rook
intent upon a drink, and with its beak upset both pail and milk on the
ground. And seeing it, Saint Kevin spoke to the rook.

"'For long enough,' said he, 'shalt thou and thy race do penance for
this crime. For on the day of my departure to heaven, there shall be
much preparing of beef, and ye shall not eat thereof. And if any one of
you make so bold as to touch so much as the blood or the offal of the
cattle that shall be slain during those days, he shall die on the spot.
And everywhere shall be merrymaking, but ye on the heights of these
mountains that stand round us shall be sad, cawing and having the law of
one another for very dismalness.' And this marvel is fulfilled every
year unto this day, even as the Saint foretold" (Plummer).

"After these things the Angel of God came to Saint Kevin saying, 'O
Saint of God, God hath sent me to thee, to bring thee to the place which
the Lord hath appointed thee, to the east of the lesser lake, and there
thou shalt be with thy brethren; for in that place shall thy
resurrection be.'

"Saint Kevin said, 'If it had not displeased my Lord, in this place
where I have borne travail for Christ, I would fain have remained until
my death.'

"Then answered the Angel, 'If thou wilt go with thy monks to this place,
there shall be many of the sons of life in it until the end of the
world, and when thou art gone thy monks shall have a sufficiency of this
world's goods. And many thousands of blessed souls shall rise with thee
from that place, to the kingdom of heaven.'

"Said Saint Kevin, 'Indeed, O holy messenger, it is not possible for
monks to dwell in that valley hemmed in by the mountains, unless God
should aid them by His power.'

"Then answered the Angel, 'Hear these words, O man of God. Fifty men of
thy monks, if thou wilt have it so, shall God fill with heavenly bread,
and naught of earthly sustenance at all, if they remain of one spirit in
Christ after thy death; and to each of them that dies shall another
succeed in the fear and the love of God, in habit and in vow, until the
Day of Judgement.'

"Said Saint Kevin, 'I like it not that there should be so few monks
after me in that place.'

"Then answered the Angel, 'If thou likest it not that there should be so
few in that place, then shall many thousands live there, without stint
or poverty, God supplying their worldly store, for ever. And thou from
thy heavenly seat shalt rule thy family on earth, even as thou wilt, in
Christ. And by God's aid, thou shalt rule thy monks here and hereafter.
For this place shall be holy and revered; the kings and the great ones
of Ireland shall make it glorious to the glory of God because of thee,
in lands, in silver and in gold, in precious stones and silken raiment,
in treasures from over sea, and the delights of kings, and rich shall be
its harvest fields. A great city shall rise there. And the burial place
of thy monks shall be most sacred, and none that lie beneath its soil
shall know the pains of hell. And verily if thou shouldst will that
these four mountains which close this valley in should be levelled into
rich and gentle meadow lands, beyond question thy God will do it for

"Said Saint Kevin, 'I have no wish that the creatures of God should be
moved because of me; my God can help that place in some other fashion.
And moreover, all the wild creatures on these mountains are my house
mates, gentle and familiar to me, and they would be said of this that
thou hast said.' And in such discourse the Angel of God and Saint Kevin
made their way
across the waters of the lake" (Plummer).

"At one Lenten season, Saint Kevin, as was his way, fled from the
company of men to a certain solitude, and in a little hut that did but
keep out the sun and the rain, gave himself earnestly to reading and to
prayer, and his leisure to contemplation alone. And as he knelt in his
accustomed fashion, with his had outstretched through the window and
lifted up to heaven, a blackbird settled on it, and busying herself as
in her nest, laid in it an egg. And so moved was the Saint that in all
patience and gentleness
he remained, neither closing nor withdrawing his hand; but until the
young ones were fully hatched he held it out unwearied, shaping it for
the purpose. And for a sign of perpetual remembrance of this thing, all
the images of Saint Kevin throughout Ireland show a blackbird in his
outstretched hand" (Giraldus Cambrensis).

Commemoration (Vespers and Matins)
of Our Venerable Father Kevin,
Abbot of Glendalough,
Wonder-worker of All Ireland

Saint Kevin is one of the patrons of Dublin. His feast is celebrated
throughout Ireland.

Troparion of St Kevin tone 8
Thou wast privileged to live in the age of Saints O Father Kevin/ being
baptized by one saint, taught by another and buried by a third./ Pray to
God that He will raise up saints in our day/ to help, support and guide
us into the way of salvation.

Icons of Saint Kevin:

Some articles and photographs of Saint Kevin's Glendalough:--

1) MONASTIC IRELAND: Glendalough Co. Wicklow

2) http://ubik.virtual-pc.com/aduffy/monastic/monastic4.html

3) The Church of Saint Kevin at Glandalough

4) The Round Tower at Glendalough

5) A Virtual Tour of Glendalough

6) Irish Monastic Sites in photographs

7) St Kevin's Kitchen, etc


For more stories about Saint Kevin you can visit

St. Cronan the Tanner
Died 617. Saint Cronan was a disciple of Saint Kevin (Benedictines).

St. Glunshallaich
7th century. Saint Kevin preached the Gospel and the Holy Spirit led the
heart of the Irish Saint Glunshallaich to conversion. He became penitent
for the balance of his life. He was buried at Glendalough in the same
grave as his evangelist (Benedictines).

Troparion of St Glunshallaich tone 1
O holy Glunshallaich, having been converted by the holy Abbot Kevin/
thou wast his fellow labourer and constant companion,/ not even being
parted from him in the grave,/ with him, intercede to God that our souls
may be saved.

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