THOUSANDS of trees were knocked to the grounds in Glenstal Abbey but amongst the carnage their God Pods miraculously escaped.
They are a modern take on centuries-old beehive huts where monks found spirituality in solitude. Located on the edge of woodland deep in the Murroe countryside - about 1km from the monastery, they are designed for those who want to get away from it all.
But they could have so easily been blown away or badly damaged by falling trees in Storm Darwin.
Fr Simon Sleeman said thoughts turned immediately to the God Pods when the gales began to howl.
“I went down there and the Abbot [Fr Mark Patrick Hederman] was straight down. They are vulnerable but the good Lord looked after us,” said Fr Simon.
The two God Pods are surrounded by trees yet not as much as a flying branch made a scratch on them.
There are thousands of trees down in Glenstal which is home to some of the oldest trees in the county, if not the country.
“These huge great oak trees that are two to three hundred years old are just lying there - all within an hour. It is so sad. The storm just ripped through the place.
“I have walked most of the land. Including trees that are six/seven feet high there are literally thousands down,” said Fr Simon. Suitable wood is being given to the boat building project in Limerick city.
Another concern was their new €6m school building which was officially opened recently. It was built with the aim of integrating the extension seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.
A huge oak tree beside the new school build luckily didn’t budge an inch. But Glenstal didn’t escape completely unscathed.
“There was a roof blown off on the farm where the cows were and that is a big roof. At the front gate a huge beech fell into the main entrance wall,” said Fr Simon. Nobody was hurt or animals injured.
Those booked in to spend time in the God Pods will be delighted to hear they are as good as new.
Since they were built thanks to a donation of €200,000 from JP McManus and opened in late 2012 they have been constantly busy.
Fr Cuthbert Brennan, who oversaw construction and takes bookings for the God Pods, said there is a lot of demand for silence and quiet space so that people have time to reflect and just take some time-out.
“They have access to a praying community so there is a structure to the day if you want,” said Fr Cuthbert.
The God Pods are eco-friendly dwellings that include solar panels, water collection and biomass heating. They are equipped with a small fridge, electric hob and microwave oven but no wifi.
They allow men and women to reconnect with nature and stood tall in the teeth of the storm.