Saturday, May 21, 2016

Praying the Keeills Week

Now in its eleventh year, Praying the Keeills Week invites everyone to participate in one of the many events lined up for what has become a unique part of the Manx calendar.

A keeill is the local name which describes a Christian chapel, many of which were built between the eighth and twelfth centuries across the length and breadth of the Island.

The earliest buildings were built of sods of earth and rarely larger than three metres by five metres internally. Others, however, were far more substantial, but constructed with stone. Typically some of them were surrounded by a walled graveyard, and often a well would be situated nearby.

It's estimated that there may have been in the region of two hundred of these Christian stations at one time, but there are now only about thirty five with visible remains, often found on farmland.

A keeill might be used as a family chapel, a wayside shrine, a place of retreat or hermitage.

Excavations, where permitted, have unearthed memorial crosses and other decorative items, which were subsequently re-housed in local parish churches. But with a number of  them facing an uncertain future, some of these artefacts have been released into the care of Manx National Heritage.

Praying the Keeills Week is organised by a group of people from local churches, and is presented as an opportunity to put aside the bustle of a contemporary world.

Both prayer and meditation were of importance to those who worshipped at these places, which were believed to be what might be described as 'thin places'; where believers could draw close to God.

Organisers have prepared an extensive list of events, including an illustrated lecture about the Manx keeill, by Andrew Johnson of Manx National Heritage.

Other events during this celebration include a coach trip, special church services, a drumming session and a variety of short and long-distance walks to see a selection of the surviving buildings.

Further information available on their website.


Valerie Caine
© May 2016

 

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