Opening of Glendalough Exhibition at the NMI

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Words of greeting of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

National Museum of Ireland, Wednesday 16 September 2020


“I am very pleased that the Knockatemple Hand Bell, which had come into the possession of the Archbishop of Dublin some decades ago, has now been able to take its rightful place among the Glendalough-related antiquities of the National Museum of Ireland as part of this exhibition.

Yesterday, I happened to meet with a group of women form the North inner city in Dublin who have over the years formed a solidarity group for women whose children have been lost through drug abuse.  All too often, people simply think that their plight is just like that of any person who loses a child.  That is not the case.  Quite often, their children had been caught up in the horrible business of drug trafficking since childhood.  The women may have lost more than one child.  Very often, they inherit the drug debts that their children had acquired and the mothers will be ruthlessly pursued until that debt is repaid.  At times, they may not even be able to pay for a funeral.

Over the years I have been able to provide modest funding for the group and one of their needs I was told was respite.  They need to have an opportunity to get away from the unrelenting harshness of their situation.  When I asked what respite they liked best, I was immediately told Glendalough.  I would never have thought of it, but these women, living in the harshness of making ends meet and coping with grief, found that even coming for a short visit, the silence and the beauty of Glendalough gave them just what they needed.

I tell this story to recall that the peace and prayerfulness and physical beauty of Glendalough that this exhibition documents historically, is still a place where prayer silence and pilgrimage can be a lifesaving moment of respite and rest and peace for a group of forgotten troubled women today. And how many others!

Glendalough is unique.  We have to ensure that in developing its potential in the future, we never loses its originality – peace, prayerfulness and refreshing silence.”  ENDS





Archbishop Martin was speaking at the launch of the exhibition Glendalough: Power, Prayer and Pilgrimage’ at the National Museum of Ireland this morning.

Thought to date from the 8th or 9th centuries, the Knockatemple Hand-Bell has been in the possession of the Archdiocese since the 1920’s. It is believed a priest of the Pro Cathedral bought it at auction in 1915.

The existence of the  bell, the origins of which are not entirely evident, were painstakingly tracked by Cormac Bourke a curator of Medieval antiquities at the Ulster Museum in Belfast,  who made contact with the Diocesan Archives some years ago.

Knockatemple is a townland about seven miles from Glendalough Co. Wicklow, with ancient Church ruins. At the end of 2019 Archbishop Martin wrote to the National Museum of Ireland alerting them to the existence of the bell and offering to donate it to the NMI collection.