This Sunday the History Channel is premiering a new dramatic series, Vikings. Which just happens to be filmed, not in Scandinavia, but in Ireland, which brings me to this Friday's photo, taken at Glendalough, in the Wicklow Mountains, not far from Dublin.
Glendalough was originally settled by Saint Kevin, who came to the area in the sixth century. After choosing this secluded setting, located atop a Bronze Age tomb, for his monastery, he lived a hermetic life, fasting, praying, eating only what he could catch or find, and wearing animal skins. Passing hungers, peddlers, and others who heard of him began to find their way to this misty, mountain location.
Kevin's church thrived as a famous center of learning, attracting thousands of pilgrims and scholars from all over Europe. Although Kevin died around 618 A.D., Glendalough flourished as the settlement came to include not only churches and monastic cells, but workshops, guesthouses, an infirmary, farm buildings, and houses. Most of the buildings that survive today are from the 10th and 12th centuries.
Although the monastery was destroyed by the Normans in 1218, and the rest of the settlement was finally destroyed by the English in 1398, it continued to be a place of worship and pilgrimage.
This tower, built almost a thousand years ago by the monks and thought by many to be one of the best constructed and beautiful towers in Ireland, was used for storage, for the church bell (it's Irish name is Cloig-theach, meaning bell tower), and where people would seek refuge when they were attacked.
Although the roof had to be rebuilt (using original stones found inside), after it was struck by lightning in 1876, it's still in nearly perfect shape. The interior is divided into six stories by timber floors connected by ladders. The four stories about the entrance level are each lit by a small window, while the top story has four windows facing the cardinal compass points.
It's a magical, mystical place. One where you can feel the spirits of all those who came before and after Kevin.