The icon of St Begnet, designed by Artist Colette Clarke and sponsored by parishioners Finbar and Maeve Breathnach hangs on the wall of the bapistry. The icon was commissioned by Fr John McDonagh to mark the Feast of St Begnet who is the patron saint of Dalkey.
Begnet, or Becnat, patron of Dalkey belongs to that rank of early Irish Saints about who we know very little of their personal lives, but whose cults have survived to the present day. She is recorded in the eleventh-century genealogies of Irish saints as becnat daughter of Colmán, son of Āed, possibly a member of the aristocratic family of Dál Messin Corb who ruled over north and central Leinster up to 700A.D. When they lost control of these territories, their rule was confined to the Wicklow Mountains but they maintained control of some of the most important ecclesiastical offices in Leinster due to the fact that St. Kevin ( Cóemgen) of Glendalough was also a member of the Dál Messin Corb. Becnat, and her churches in Dalkey and Dalkey Island, belonged to the familia Coemgeni ‘the family of Cóemgen and her churches were ultimately under the protection of the great monastery of Glendalough. Becnat’s feastday on 12th November, as recorded in the late medieval Book of Obits of Christ Church cathedral, comes two days before the feastday of St. Lawrence O’Toole ( Lorcán Ua Túathail) on 14th November, the abbot of Glendalough and archbishop of Dublin who died in 1180.
The Icon of St. Begnet was written by Collette Clark, Iconographer Artist who carried out the necessary research and reading about St. Begnet and the 7th century period in which she lived and then commenced the writing of the icon.
This consisted of selecting the final image of St. Begnet as a young woman of noble birth, Celtic looks with head covered. The head covering was fastened with a brooch modelled on the Killarney Brooch (c. AD 800). The garment colours come from the image of Our Lady in the Book of Kells. The neck decoration from the Book of Dunna, the pattern for the inner garment also from the Book of Kells. The bracelet was based on gold bracelets on exhibit in the National Museum and the cross on the bracelet was based on the cross in the grounds of the church of St. Kevin in Glendalough. The image of St. Begnet holds a staff in her right hand to show she is the shepherd of her people and in her left hand is the church she founded St. Begnets on Dalkey Island.
Finally the name, Naomh Begnet was placed on the panel using the Uiscial Script as this script was used by the Celtic Christian monks from the 5th – 8th centuries. The finished icon was then left for an adequate period to dry before it was varnished using shellac varnish.
May St Begnet continue to bless our Church and all who come to view her. Visit www.ikonerin.org for more information on iconography in Ireland.