Skellig Michael, a twin-pinnacled crag, situated 11.6 kilometres (7.2 mi) west of the Iveraugh Peninsula in County Kerry. Together with its sister island, Little Skellig, it forms the most westerly part of Europe. Dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, it was home to one of the earliest monastic settlements that became a refuge for those seeking to connect with the divine. In 1996 it was awarded the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It also became home to the fictional character, Luke Skywalker, in the Star Wars enterprise, Episodes 7 & 8. It is where Luke Skywalker is living when found by Rey in her search for instruction and understanding of the Jedi ways. In a way, it is fitting that this site would be selected as the place of refuge and remote isolation sought by Luke.
The first small group of monks led by St. Fiona, arrived in 1046 A.D., and were also seeking the isolation and the seclusion that supported their vision that through hardship and prayer they would become closer to God.
It is a remarkable testament to the faith, devotion, skill, hard work and perseverance of the monks, all in a celebration of God. Only a dozen monks resided at the monastery at any given time. The infrastructure, buildings and water purification system took generations to complete, using inventive methods of dry-stone construction to build six round huts with rectangular interior spaces to keep rain out and to enclose gardens that created an environment promoting growth of plants two times faster than those on the mainland. They hand-hewed the rocks to build three separate staircases of 670 steps each that wind up to the summit where the monastery was built. In addition, on the highest peak on the island, they built beehive huts for hermits, which shielded them from the harsh weather atop the rock. The terraces and walls are still intact and are fine examples of early Christian architecture.
While abandoned in the 12th century, Skellig Michael is a testimony to a unique way of life that still attracts pilgrims from around the world seeking the divine at this remote place at the edge of the world. It is also the most westerly sacred site in Europe and the end point of a line of ancient pilgrimage places in Europe. This line runs from Palestine through to Greece, Italy, France and finally, Ireland. It is known as the Apollo/ St Michael axis, as it is believed to have been known thousands of years before Christianity.
To see a YouTube video of this remarkable place, follow this LINK to our Ireland, Saints and Scholars 2019 Pilgrimage page. And yes, we will be visiting this site during our Saints and Scholars Pilgrimage through Ireland in August 2019!