Next on my journey through the wonderful Monastic City of Glendalough and in no particular order is the Ancient Gateway. As it happens today is the feast day of St. Kevin (Cóemgen). Yesterday I mentioned that he was a member of one of the ruling clans of Leinster. Last night I found out that the clan was Dál Messin Corb. They are said to have been the last of the Dumnonians whom ruled in the 5th century under the tribal name of Dál Messin Corb. Interestingly the Dumnonians are believed to be a descendant tribe of the Fir Bolg, an ancient race whom inhabited Ireland prior to the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milsean invasions as told in the Lebor Gabála Érenn. The Fir Bolg in turn are said to be descendant from the Nemedians, a race whom settled in Ireland many years previous. If this is true then Kevin could very well be related back to the line of Noah from the biblical floods.
Anyway back to today’s post, in its day Glendalough was enclosed by a circular wall. Very little remains of the original wall, with the exception of a magnificent Archway enterance. Unfortunately most people visiting Glendalough enter the site by the visitor’s center and miss out on the experience of walking in the footsteps of the early Christian monks entering the Monastic City. Walking up the steps and through the picturesque double arches towards the settlement is an experience not to be forgotten. Just imagine what it would have been like back then? There were no roads as we know them; travel consisted of walking, horseback or cart. And not to forget, Glendalough rests in the middle of a glacial Valley, surrounded by treacherous mountains miles away from civilization. The city must have been an awe inspiring sight to behold back then. To the left of the steps there was a lady whom was playing some rather haunting tunes on the Uilleann Pipes, with her music for sale on various CD’s. Then across the road there were various traders hoping to sell their wares to the vast number of tourists whom visit this site.
The structure was originally two stories high, with two granite arches. The remaining projecting walls indicate that it would have had a timber roof. A Gate Keeper may well have lived on the second storey. The arches were built with Roman style columns which meant that the stones were cut to fit, no mortar was used in the construction. As the principal entrance to the city, it has the distinction of being the only surviving entrance to an early ecclesiastical settlement. Just inside the inner arch, in the west wall, there is a large rectangular slab which bears a carved cross of an unusual design. It is commonly believed to be a sanctuary mark which ensured protection to anyone seeking refuge within the confines of the monastery.