The Hermitage Centre is situated on the grounds of St. Kevin’s Parish Church and shares some common space with the parish including a beautiful Meditation Garden.

Although it is now an independent entity, the Centre continues to have very close links with St. Kevin’s Parish. We collaborate closely and support each other in many areas of common interest.

We Sisters of Mercy who take care of the Hermitage Centre are members of St. Kevin’s Parish. We attend daily Mass in the church and participate in parish activities. The Parish Priest and parishioners are valued friends and supporters of our work.

Mass is celebrated daily in the Church. For further information on St. Kevin’s Parish and church activities, visit www.dublindiocese.ie/parish/glendalough/.

Building the Church

St. Kevin’s Church itself was built during the period 1846 to 1850. Designed by the Irish architect, J.J. McCarthy, the church was built by the local community under the leadership of Father Eugene Clarke, P.P.

The work was undertaken during the most devastating years of the Irish Famine and is a testament to the strong faith and generosity of the local community.

The church was carefully restored to its original beauty for the Jubilee Year 2000. It has been described as “a strict revival of a simple parish church of the middle ages.” The cut stone simplicity holds echoes of Celtic Monasticism and provides a beautiful setting for celebrations of the liturgy when the community and visitors gather for prayer.

St Kevin's Church and Labyrinth

Original Icons

The Church contains the original icons of St. Kevin and St. Laurence O’Toole which were specially commissioned for the Jubilee celebrations and written by Sr. Aloysius McVeigh, also a Mercy sister.

Icon of St. Kevin (Caoimhin)

Since an icon always conveys an inner message, we hope that this little explanation of the Saint Kevin icon will help you to read beneath the surface meaning.

The icon suggests St. Kevin’s preference for the life of solitude, penance and prayer of a hermit, and also his affinity with nature and his love for animals and birds.

The well known story of the black bird in his hand is a verbal image of his reverence for creation, while the fawn at St. Kevin’s feet is a symbol of his own gentle peaceful nature.

The stole that Kevin wears over his monk’s garb, as well as the open books of the scriptures, indicates that Kevin was also an ordained priest called to ministry. To obey that calling he had to give up the peace and poetry of his beloved retreat.

The miracles and marvels recounted in the ancient manuscripts of Kevin’s life were very probably parables containing deeper truths, which our early Christian ancestors would have understood.

Some of these are included especially in the borders of the icon.

The Angel, (here taken from The Book of Kells) who plays such a recurring theme in the stories, needs no explanation, and neither does the hand of God who guided every aspect of St. Kevin’s life.

The deer recalls the providence of God who through a doe provided milk for a child Kevin had fostered, and at the same time reminds us of the deer in the psalms, who is the image of the soul that yearns for God – the living water.

The salmon again emphasizes for us the care of the Creator who provided for the monks of the nearby monastery, a salmon sufficient for their daily meal. It also recalls that the fish (ICTHUS) is an ancient symbol of the incarnation of Christ.

The cow highlights God’s providence, since it is recorded that a white cow brought milk each day to feed the infant Kevin. God rewarding those who are kind to his creatures is symbolized by Kevin’s friend the otter retrieving his breviary undamaged from the lake.

This story also teaches that the word of God remains gloriously unaltered, no matter what opposition or storm it encounters.

The fox in the lower left margin symbolized that Kevin’s life, as the life of anyone of us, was not, without the slyness of temptation and doubt.

The central figure of Kevin with his hand raised in blessing reassured us of his guidance and help, which in itself is a great symbol of ‘God’s presence in our lives.

Sr. Aloysius McVeigh R.S.M.

Iconography

The Icon was specially written for the Jubilee Year 2000 by the Irish Iconographer Sr. Aloysius McVeigh R.S.M.

Icon of St Laurence O’Toole

The central figure shows St. Laurence, mitered and robed as Archbishop of Dublin, with a bishop’s robe that is worn very loosely. It does not obscure the monk’s habit underneath, for Archbishop Laurence, always remained a monk at heart.

Tradition tells us that Laurence retained a cell in Glendalough where he had been a monk. He returned there for times of prayer whenever possible, especially during the forty days of Lent. This is depicted in the inset medallion at the top right hand side of the icon.

After his appointment to the Archbishopric of Dublin, Laurence is credited with having built many churches. The crypt of the present Christ Church is a relic of his work and testimony to his skill. The border motif and inset medallion on the lower right hand side are a reference to his apostolate as a church builder.

Laurence’s early life as a hostage under King Dermot MacMurrough, when he was starved and cruelly treated is depicted at the top left-hand side of the icon. A chain links this with the group of poor people further down. These portray the poor in Dublin City that Laurence cared for and fed a his own table.

Note that the saint is barefoot (symbol of humility) and that he has given away his shoes to the man beside him who has none.

Hills in an icon are always Holy Places – ascents to God – and so are usually painted as steps. Laurence’s work among the poor is his ascent and a model for us.

In the turbulent age in which he lived Laurence was often called to be a peacemaker – the man in the middle. The image of him in the tower border design is a symbol of the saint as a negotiator and a man of peace.

Sr. Aloysius McVeigh R.S.M.
Iconographer

Iconography

The Icon was specially written for the Jubilee Year 2000 by the Irish Iconographer Sr. Aloysius McVeigh R.S.M.

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