Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Praying the Keeills Week Celebrates Saints and their Keeills

Maughold Churchyard
One of the more unusual events on the Manx calendar is the annual Praying the Keeills Week, which incorporates visits to a number of ancient, holy sites across the Island with other events during the week.

Now in its tenth year, their chosen theme for 2015 is Saints and their Keeills, which begins and finishes with a challenging full day walk, taking in some of the Island's beautiful scenery.

The historical keeill (Manx Gaelic: church, kirk) is a Christian chapel built during the 8th - 12th century, some rarely larger than three metres by five metres internally.

Although the earliest examples were built of earth sods, others were more substantial, both in size and substance, being made of stone. It's thought there may have been approximately two hundred keeills throughout the Island, of which only about thirty five survive; albeit just their remains.
Lag ny Keeilley

Keeills served a number of functions, incorporating family chapels, wayside shrines, places of retreat and hermitage,  with a walled graveyard sometimes surrounding the building and a well nearby.

A selection of memorial crosses and other decorated stones discovered during excavations of the keeills are on display at some of the Island's parish churches.

Praying the Keeills Week has adopted the idea of prayer and meditation, which were important to those who historically worshipped at these sites; describing them as 'thin places' where they could draw closer to God.

Praying the Keeills Week is organised by a number of local churches and offers an opportunity to step aside from the busyness of life and perhaps rediscover lost ideals.

Lag ny Keeilley
Their first event will be a Service of Welcome at Glen Maye Chapel before heading towards the now deserted mining community of Glen Rushen, with other visits to keeill sites at Union Mills, Jurby, Scarlett to Balladoole in the south of the Island and Lonan in the east.

Other outings scheduled for the week include an illustrated talk about Manx Saints, a 'saints-themed' coach trip and an opportunity to visit both the old and new St German's Cathedral.

All are welcome at any of the scheduled events (see their website for details) although the coach trip will need to be booked in advance.


Valerie Caine


© May 2015

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