Irish Saint, Abbot of Glendalough. Patron saint of long life and nature. 498 - 617
In Glendalough lived an auld saint
Renowned for his learning and piety.
His manners was curious and quaint,
And he looked upon girls with disparity.
- "The Glendalough Saint"
Also known as Coaimhghin, Coemgen or Keivin (meaning "fair-begotten", kind or handsome), Saint Kevin was born around 498 CE at the Fort of the White Fountain, near Dublin into a family of Leinster nobility. Raised a Christian, he was taught by Saint Petroc from an early age (some say seven). He grew up with monks, living in a local monastery from age 12 and subsequently studying for the priesthood in Killnamanagh before being ordained by Lugidus. Following his ordination, the pious young man set out to devote himself to a life dedicated to God.
He soon found himself in Glendalough, a beautiful valley about 25 miles (40 km) south of Dublin, and settled to the life of a hermit in the remains of a Bronze Age habitation, eating only that which grew naturally in the area, notably nuts, nettles and other herbs. However, the peaceful life he sought was soon disturbed by a number of followers who had heard the tales of a holy man living in the ruins. There were soon enough people to warrant the founding of a monastery, and a town quickly grew up around it, with regular pilgrimages made there.
Seeking some solitude, he withdrew again after the monastery was established, and went to visit the saints Columba, Comgall, and Cannich at Usneach before moving to a community at Clonmacnoise in 544 to take over following the death of St. Cieran. After a while, he wished to return to the life of a hermit and moved to a cave near what is now known as the village of Hollywood (the name coming from Kevin's blessing the "holy wood" on his arrival). The cave is still there, and has been frequented by other hermits over the years. A statue is erected in his honour at the top of a nearby hill.
After a number of years of solitude, he was encouraged to return to the monastery, where he served as abbot until his death. During this time, he also brought up the son of King Colman of Ui Faelain.
Miracles and Legends
As with so many saints, Kevin has a rich mythology attached to him, some of which may be based in truth. Many of the stories certainly fit what we know of the historical Kevin. Certainly, the area around about is rich with his name, St. Kevin's Bed, Kitchen and all bearing witness to his fame. The node at Glendalough gives more information.
When he arrived in the glen, there was no-one else living there, although a number of people grazed animals nearby. One farmer noticed that one of his cows was giving an extraordinary amount of milk, and wondered why. Following her, he discovered that she had a habit of licking Kevin's feet. Realising that he must be a very holy man, the farmer took him home, cleaned him up (cleanliness was rarely next to godliness in the hermit fraternity), and told his neighbour about him. Kevin began preaching, and thus began his reputation as a saint.
It was his habit to stand in the lake to pray, arms stretched out to the heavens. It is said that one day, a blackbird began to build a nest in one of his hands, and when he realised, he stood stock-still until the nest was finished, the eggs hatched and the young blackbirds able to fend for themselves. This story has led to his being depicted with a bird in his hand, and he is known as a patron saint of birds, and blackbirds in particular.
There was a monster living in one of the lakes. This creature began to prey on the congregation which had grown up around about, which caused some consternation, and many voices were raised in favour of killing the beast.
Kevin, being a lover of animals, would not hear of it, and entreated the monster to move to the lower of the two lakes. Once there, the monster lived by eating the sicknesses that were washed from the animals driven through the lakes by locals.
While he was first entrusted with Colman's son, he had no milk with which to feed the baby. After praying for help, a doe arrived, and would leave enough milk to provide for the young child. After the doe was killed by a she-wolf, Kevin persuaded the wolf to provide milk until the child was weaned.
The song quoted above, The Glendalough Saint, tells in part of a woman named Cathleen, who fell in love with him, offering a wide variety of services, including cleaning his cave and warming his bed. The saintly Kevin would have nothing to do with this, and beat her off with stinging nettles. Undeterred, she returned, and he pushed her out of the cave into the lake. She drowned.
Never a great lover of mankind, he was nonetheless renowned for his kindnesses to animals, and would eat only fruit and vegetation, supplemented by salmon (brought to him, it is said, by a friendly otter). He died of old age on 3rd June, 617 (618 in some accounts), and his feast day is celebrated on the anniversary, being known as Pattern Day in Glendalough. Living to the ripe old age of 120, it is little wonder that he is a patron saint of longevity.
...and it's my first name =)