My husband and I took another trip to Europe as a follow-on to last years trip to England and Scotland. This year it was to learn about woman saints who lived in and changed lives in Wales and Ireland. We started in Cardiff, traveled around Wales for a week, then took the largest ferry I've ever seen; traveled throughout the south of Ireland, returning home via Dublin.
The Irish sea takes a long time to cross even with a ferry that can hold large buses and giant trucks. Our largest ferry is very small compared to these cavernous beasts!
I'm always impressed at the history and beauty of the countries we have visited. The sites we were following were from the 5th to 9th century. The women saints were St. Non, Brigid and Melengell. St. Non was the mother of St. David, whose incredibly beautiful cathedral we first visited in Pembrokeshire.
While wandering toward St. Non's church (lost again), I came across three young boys between the ages of 7 thru 10 and their dog. One was wearing a tiger costume, the other two were definitely leaders and did their best to help me find my way, ending up walking me the whole way. By this time I was having foot problems and couldn't walk very fast. It was sad to miss the walk along the cliffs overlooking the sea near St. Nons.
St. Melengell (Pennant Melangell) was the first woman to provide sanctuary for politically threatened citizens. She started by protecting the wildlife where she was living in the woods, gained the respect of the Prince and was given the area to build a Monastery (church)?
Brigid founded a religious order for women, became the Abbess of a dual monastery and was believed to be appointed a Bishop of Kildare.
I missed the details of a lot of these stories because I was off and running when we arrived at a site to try and make a meaningful sketch.
This sketch of Brigid's well appealed to me because it was in a beautiful natural setting, undisturbed by the surrounding farm. Brigid's sculpture was sketched at the Solas Bhride Centre in Kildare. This modern center is run by Catholic nuns and volunteers. I was so impressed with the beautiful modern design it was hard to concentrate on sketching the statue outside.
Round towers like Monasterboyce and Clonmacnoise were built to save people and treasure during a Viking raid. The access was by a ladder at least ten feet above ground, which was then pulled up and in for protection during a raid.
The round tower at Clonmacnoise was the top of a larger tower which over time fell off, then restored as this smaller version. It was a rainy day and I found a quiet enclosed, very modern, glass-walled structure where I set up my sketching supplies to make a painting of the tower. In the middle of the sketch, a group of Phillipino parishioners and their priest came into this building and talked about history and then started praying! I didn't know if I should stay or go but decided to finish. They eventually stopped and then gathered around me to see what I was working on. It turned out I had set up my work on the Altar!
Round tower at Monasterboyce, was a quick sketch in a small book set up on top of a gravestone. I could see everyone listening to the history about large Celtic crosses and learned later that stone crosses were built to keep the Vikings from stealing the wooden crosses and burning them.
My favorite location was the Monastic city in Glendalough via the Wicklow mountains. We arrived later in the afternoon and wandered across the street to get familiar with our location. It was late enough that the sun was low in the sky and raindrops were putting a sparkle on everything. The cemetery was crowded with crosses and stones, it was unkempt and wild underfoot - like walking deer trails here at home. It felt like it had always been that way, even in the 8th century. I was surrounded by beautiful ruins, crosses, huge trees and another round tower; it was as if I had crossed into a different century.
What I haven't mentioned: Newgrange, Trinity College Dublin, St. Govan's head. That will be in the next post along with a few more pictures and sketches.
|St Brigid's Well, surrounded by farmland|
|Restored round tower at Clonmacnoise near Boyne Valley, Wales|
|Round tower at Monasterboyce|
|Look left at Kevins church and right toward a round tower (Monastic City, Glendalough, Ire.)|
|View of the crucifix hanging from the decorative woodwork at St. Davids|
Also, small sculptures in the Treasury. (Watersoluble walnut ink)
|More decorative woodwork & stone sculptures memorializing St. Mellengell|
who stood up to the Prince by hiding rabbits under her cloak. He admired her and
gave her land to build a church that became a sanctuary for endangered citizens.
|Bangor Wales, we caught the Irish ferry from here.|
|Newport, Pembrokeshire Wales, the best chocolate ever!|
|Snowdonia National Park through the restaurant window|
overlooking the Park. What I would give to wander those hills!
|St. Brigid - Solas Bhride Centre|
|St. Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire Wales|
The upper sketch was made while listening to the choir practice!
|St. Mary's church for just women - part of the Monastic City|
|Overlooking the Irish Sea|
|St Seriol's well at Penmon Priory Anglesey, Wales|
|Rainy day in the Cathedral, Monastic City - Glendalough, Ireland|