Skellig Michael : Inside the walls
Skellig Michael is an Island some 12 to 16 kilometres by boat from the ring of kerry, county Kerry, Ireland. It is most famous for the fact that during the 6th to the 8th Century’s a religious settlement was established here.
The Island is a world heritage site and falls under the guardianship of UNESCO, you can find the official historic details from the link on the world heritage web page here : Skellig Michael
In my last two posts I shared the boat trip to the Island and then the long but wonderful walk up to the settlement at the very top of the Island some 218 meters from sea level. Today I just want to share images of the inside area , the location that the people who lived here spent their life’s and also the location in which they are buried and there final resting place.
The images in the Gallery below are placed in the order that you view the buildings when you walk through the site, the only access is through a small passage in the outer walls.
The very first thing that greets you are two small head stones, in a very small patch of grass. These are the graves of two young boys, it was a tradition that monks in this period would take very young boys as members to their orders. These boys where from families on the main land and once they moved here they would most likely never return to see there families. Our guide informed us that it is a possibility that both boys were killed by Viking invaders as when the remains where examined wounds were found that indicate that they were killed by the use of weapons, both boy did not pass the ages of ten or twelve. It is also thought that other graves in the pictures here, in the centre of the living area contain some adult victims of such attacks.
A monastery may have been founded as early as the sixth century, reputedly by Saint Fionán but in 1044 rededicated to Saint Michael, the image here shows a large sculpture that is located towards the middle of the complex. It was described by our guide as being a cross but it could also be very much in the form of a human figure, with the arms to the side and a head looking over the site.
The word Skellig is defined as meaning “splinter of a stone”, and thus this rocky island was dedicated to saint Michael, there are also other Islands around Europe and maybe further away that are dedicated to this saint ( Mont Saint-Michel France, St Michael’s Mount Cornwall)
One of the most famous features of Skellig Michael are the so called Beehive structures, there were may be six or seven of these of which six are still standing, they were the living space for each of the monks, this fact would indicate that a maximum of seven people lived here in the beehives at any one time, there is a structure at the very end of the settlement that is constructed completely differently, It is thought that the head of the order would have lived in this building but few fact to prove this exist.
In any case the indications are that eight people lived on Skellig Michael at anyone time during its long history.
Living with in these stone constructions looks very harsh , during the time they were occupied however they would have looked very different, in some of the pictures you can see supporting stones that stick out of the main buildings by some amount, it is thought that these stones supported a covering of thatch consisting of straw and clay, this would have been deep and was used to keep the inner stone structure warn and dry. Not all but some of the Beehives have a hole in the roof that was used to let out smoke from fires inside.
At some point I want to post about the life’s of these people, who they were and why they chose to live here, I need to read a little more however , so for the moment that’s it. Three post over the last three day that I hope share a visit to this wonderful and mystical island. If you get a chance I would really in-courage you to visit. Its an experience of a lifetime and helps to open your mind to European history.
I cannot help however feeling that this place holds something else other than the official history, The question as to why these monks felt the need to occupy Skellig Michael, so far of the Irish coast line, is very big !
This place feels like an escape, a refuge but from what and why ?
With such massive risk’s taken by a small group of people to construct three stone walk-ways to the top of the Island and then build the settlement, the question of why looms very large. These were times that the word of Christianity was first being spread across Ireland so why the need to hide away here ?
I need Much more reading, before I understand these bigger questions 🙂