Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road


Ireland is lush and green, filled with ancient stories held closely in the rocks and stones.  Our first stop after arrival was Glendalough; (Gleann Dá Loch, meaning "Valley of two lakes").  It is a glacial valley in County Wicklow, Ireland, renowned for an Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin.

It was early November when we arrived and although a little late in the season for such northern climes, the trees still held on to their color and glory for a few more days making the ancient monastery a magical place.  It is a romantic setting and the ground itself feels holy and sacred; it whispers the promise of all the secrets Ireland and its rugged landscape holds.

The present remains in 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, though its foundation is much older.

The annuals of Glendalough tell the story of Viking raiders, holy men and pilgrimages, beautifully illustrated manuscripts and books.  Yet, ultimately it fell from prestige due to its remote location and then placed under the wing of the Archbishop in Dublin.

Perhaps, there is something in me that was a monk in another lifetime or the years in ministry but as I walked these ancient grounds, through tired and disoriented from the travel, my soul heard their stories. It was as if the quiet rhythm of their singing, the ancient chant of Gregory, or the resonant tolling of the bells that called them and the valley to rise, to work, to pray could be heard.  The wind stirred the trees as they joined the chorus.  Here, it seemed to say, is holy ground, be still and know.

Travel, IrelandMary Anne Harris