Glendalough, Wicklow

Artist(s) : Thomas Creswick (Draughtsman), Edward Radclyffe (Engraver)

View of valley of Glendalough, with round tower at the centre of the image, surrounded by ruins. A woman carrying a child on her back is crossing the river that flows in the foreground. Four cows are by the river. The lake is visible past the ruins, encircled by mountains.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – T. Creswick. / E. Radclyffe. / Printed by Alfred Adlard.
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – Glendalough, Wicklow.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Etchings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Nature, Rural life
Geographical Location
  • Glendalough - Named locality
  • Wicklow - County
  • Leinster - Province
Keywords(s) Archaeological sites, Cemeteries, Children, Churches, Lakes & ponds, Livestock, Mountains, Peasants, People, Rivers, Round towers, Ruins, Women
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 11 cm x 12.8 cm
Published / created 1837

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account Ireland Picturesque and Romantic
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy opp p. 84
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 r 15
Alternative source

This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

On entering the Valley, and for some time after, I found the scenery by no means so striking as I had expected. The Broccagh and Glenasane hills on my right, and the shoulder of Derrybawn on my left, although massive, and tolerably well wooded, possessed no grandeur of aspect; and when at length my attention was called to a few grey stones by the roadside, as the ruins of the Ivy Church, I began to wish that I had left Glendalough unvisited. As we advanced, however, the objects around changed gradually in character. The hills became steeper and more lofty; and at the termination of the vista they closed darkly in, shaded no more by woods, but bare and dreary; and one dark-browed giant, called Comaderry, abutting far into the vale at its extremity, seemed to preside sternly and gloomily over the scene. Of the two recesses thus formed, one at either side of the hill, that on the right, which the visitor has straight before him, is the least interesting. But the eye lingers here only for a moment. It is drawn, as if by fascination, towards the left recess, covered with waters as black as night, which are lost among precipices that seem almost perpendicular. The space between, overspread with ecclesiastical ruins, and dominated by a Round Tower, is the site of most of the Seven Churches; // and the mystic silence which now reigns upon the spot has replaced, according to old tradition, the hum of a city. The engraving here presented to the reader is not only a gem of art, but is so minutely correct in drawing, that it may serve as a guide to the traveller. The right-hand recess which I have mentioned, does not enter into the view; but a portion of Comaderry serves, with the precipices of Lugduff, in the back ground, to enclose / "the lake, whose gloomy shore / Skylark never warbled o'er." / The hill on the left is a shoulder of the Derrybawn. Nearer us than the dark waters, and almost confounded with them to the eye, is another lake, from either side of which a stream flows, to be united again below the ruins; thus surrounding the eminence on which the Churches stand, and explaining the name given to the bishopric in the Bull of Pope Lucius III., Episcopatus Insularum. I can call to mind few scenes in any country so striking as that presented to the traveller from the spot on which he is here supposed to stand. The massiveness of the closely grouped hills —which their precipitous form induces one unconsciously to exaggerate into mountains — and their // deep and solemn shadow, affect the mind with a feeling amounting to awe; which is increased by the mist that almost always envelopes their summits, and the sombre sky above, affording no relief, or presenting no distraction to the eye. This would form a grand and even sublime view, without any of those adjuncts which address themselves more immediately to the sympathies of men; but, if you place within that magnificent framework the ruins of churches and towers, it may easily be conceived that as a whole, there will be before you one of the most remarkable views in the world. Crossing the Avonmore brook (in the fore ground of the view), I reached an arched entrance, said to have been the gate of the vanished city. In point of size, however, it would have answered better for the gate of a monastery, and indeed I have seen on the continent more than one establishment of this description occupying as much ground, and containing as many churches as the bishopric of Glendalough. The passage is short, and contained a gate at either end. The arch of the first gate is supported by the ivy which interlaces the stones, and of which the trunks are as thick as a man's arm. The stones are of granite, very // carefully cut, while the rest of the masonwork is of a more common description. It appears evident, from the regular projections which exist in the wall, that the passage consisted originally of two stories. A description of the churches themselves would be uninteresting except to an antiquary. They appear to me to belong to a period in which the arts were well understood, but to have been elevated by a people who could not afford the superb structures we find in other countries. Some portions of the Cathedral (the ruin to which the archway seems to lead), as well as of St. Mary's Church, to the right of the Round Tower, and more especially of the Abbey, are beautifully executed; while the rest of the walls are finished in a style befitting a poor and simple nation. This hypothesis will account for the few and small specimens of foreign marble, pointed out as objects of wonder and mystery. The cement is excellent, but sparingly used; while the common stone of the neighbourhood, of which the greater part of the buildings were constructed, in some places resembles petrified timber so closely, that a minute inspection is necessary to detect the difference. To the left of the Cathedral is a small church, the most perfect of the whole, called St. Kevin's Kitchen, roofed with stone, and very massively built. Its belfry is one of the Round Towers of Ireland, different in no respect from the others, // except in point of size. I am not aware that this fact has been used in argument by the disputants on the subject of these mysterious structures. In the middle of the view is the Round Tower, of which I shall content myself with saying, that it is called by the peasantry Cloch-Theach, or the Belfry; that its entrance is at a considerable height from the ground; that it is lighted by several windows; and that there is no appearance of there ever having been a stair to ascend it either inside or out. Of these constructions there are in the whole sixty-two extant in Ireland, and as they are all — so far as I know — met with beside Christian churches, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude, that they have something to do with modern ecclesiastical architecture. In Russia, the belfries of the temples, frequently as lofty as the Round Towers of Ireland, are like them a separate and distinct building, and are often placed at as great a distance from the church. In the cemetery, there is a cross eleven feet high, formed of a block of granite, which has various miraculous properties. There was, also, a yew-tree, as old, it is said, as the Round Tower itself; but this has vanished piecemeal. Scattered around are a crowd of humble tombs, all modern — for this is a favourite burying-place — which serve, on the third of June, instead of booths and stalls for the sale of cakes and whisky. On that day there is held // a pattern, or pathern, but perhaps, more properly, patron, since it is understood to be the birth-day of St. Kevin. Many of the people who attend perform their stations no doubt very devoutly — for the place is holy — but it always happens that the day closes in drunkenness, strife, and bloodshed. This profanation, not of St. Kevin, but of the goddess Nature, is sufficient proof of the brutified condition of the peasants round the Seven Churches. I at length left what may be termed the island; and, crossing the rivulet, skirted along the base of the Derrybawn hill towards the Upper Lake. Near the little stream, I was called upon to admire a small block of granite, with a round hollow scooped in the middle, called the Deer-stone. The legend attached to this is, that, in accordance with the prayers of St. Kevin, a deer came every morning to shed her milk in the hollow, for the benefit of an infant whose mother had died in the act of giving it birth. The stone, which is too small for a font, appears to me to have been used for holding the holy water, which it is customary to place near the door of catholic churches, that the devout may sprinkle or cross themselves with it as they go in or out. On the way to the lake are the ruins of the Rhefeart church, the sepulchre of the O'Tooles, once kings of the country. Near this is the Giant's Cut, a fissure or cleft in the hill, too extraordinary in its appearance to be without its legend; and a // deep glen winding up between Derrybawn and Lugduff, its stream, owing to the over-arching rocks, forming a pool so cold as to be dangerous to the bather. [pp. 83-89]
Glendalough, Wicklow