Columcille Megalith Park
Backstory and Context
Columcille Megalith Park, tucked within a valley of the Blue Mountains in Bangor, Pennsylvania, is a man-made park inspired by an ancient rock formation on Scotland’s Isle of Iona. The founder, William Cohea, Jr., opened the park to the public in 1978 to serve as a place of meditation and peace, much as the sacred megaliths of the British Isles have for centuries. It consists of a stone circle, the “trilithon Thor’s gate,” the “Glen of the temple,” a chapel, and various other formations throughout the expanse of woodland. The park has been acknowledged by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of art, which earned it a place in the museum’s catalogue of national heritage sites. Today, the park receives about 4,500 visitors a year, for everything from weddings to serene hikes and meditation.
Cohea got his idea for Columcille from a dream he had in in 1967 of standing among the sacred megaliths of the four-billion-year-old Isle of Iona, a place known for its legends of being a portal to the otherworlds as well as a haven for Celtic Christianity. He had first visited the island ten years prior, and visited numerous times thereafter, but not until this dream, in which the colossal stones circled around him as if in a trance, had he considered recreating it in mountainous eastern Pennsylvania. Iona is known as “an island of myths,” and Cohea strived to bring that mysticism to his American Stonehenge.
Before it was a park, though, it consisted of merely a small house called “Casa Colum” -- Gaelic for “Home of the Dove” -- which Cohea constructed in 1975. This house was meant to be a place for “tired sinners and reluctant saints” to come for prayer and spiritual rejuvenation. In 1979, Cohea joined partnership with Fred Lindkvist, and they erected St. Columba Chapel, named after 6th century monk Colum Cille “who founded the monastic community on Iona.” The St. Oran Bell Tower followed, modeled after eight century Irish ruins. Other additions, such as the stone circle, trilithon Thor’s gate, and the like came later, and more is still being added to the park today.
Its largest megalith to date is the 20-foot boulder called Mannanan, weighing 45 tons. In comparison, the others are anywhere between four and fifteen tons. These megaliths were gathered from a shale pit in the side of the Kitatinni Ridge about three miles from Columcille. According to geologists, these giant rocks are at least a billion years old, having resided in the sediment below the Devonian Sea 400 million years ago. Similarly, the stones that make up the chapel and bell tower are from the Columcille area and were deposited by the Wisconsin Glacier.
Columcille Megalith Park, www.columncille.org/faq.htm. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.
Columcille Megalith Park, www.columncille.org/inspirations.htm. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.
Columcille Megalith Park, columncille.org/whoweare.htm. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.