• Cyril McAree

OPW and An Post celebrate the 1,400th Anniversary of St. Kevin of Glendalough

The Office of Public Works (OPW) and An Post today celebrate the life of St. Kevin of Glendalough with the display of “St. Kevin and the Blackbird”, an artwork by Imogen Stuart & Tim O’Neill in Glendalough Visitor Centre, Co. Wicklow and the launch of An Post’s latest stamp marking the 1,400th anniversary of the death of St. Kevin.

Imogen Stuart’s artwork and the stamp are based on a woodcarving by the artist, which portrays St. Kevin’s extraordinary closeness to nature. The artwork features the poem by Seamus Heaney “St. Kevin and the Blackbird” with calligraphy by Tim O’Neill.

The life of St. Kevin, an Irish Saint, (born in AD 498 in County Wicklow) continues to inspire artists, nature lovers and those who believe in the power of retreat and prayer. Nobel Prize winner, Seamus Heaney described his poem “St Kevin and the Blackbird” (The Spirit Level, 1996) as ‘a little meditation’.

Kevin studied for the priesthood in Cill na Manach (Kilnamanagh), moving to the seclusion of Glendalough, where he spent the rest of his life. Here he chose to practice solitude and prayer, surrounded by nature. He established two known sites near the upper lake; St. Kevin’s Bed, a manmade cave, and St. Kevin's Cell, near a mountain stream.

St. Kevin is reported to have died on June 3, 618. He was canonised in 1903 by Pope Pius X.

A monastic settlement was developed at Glendalough, recognised for a millennium as one of the great centres of Christianity in Ireland and Europe.

The An Post stamp is designed by Vermillion Design. It is based on the same legend which inspired both Imogen Stuart and Seamus Heaney: One day St. Kevin was deep in prayer, with arms outstretched. The space being confined within his tiny cell, he knelt with one arm stretched out of the window. A blackbird came to rest there and laid an egg in St. Kevin’s upturned palm. St. Kevin remained in this position, deep in meditative prayer, until the chick hatched.

The €1 stamp is available in the GPO, in selected post offices nationwide and online at irishstamps.ie.

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