Ireland is popular among travelers who crave not lazy rest on warm sand, but impressions of unforgettable landscapes, from meeting with traces of hoary antiquity, with places that are mentioned in legends. High waves of the Atlantic Ocean, impregnable cliffs, rounded dwellings made of whole stone - such is Skellig Michael, an island from Irish legends.
At a distance of 13 km from the coast of the Irish county of Kerry, there are 2 desert rocky islands nearby, mentioned in ancient pagan myths:
- Big Skellig (Skellig Michael)
- Small Skellig.
Skellig means "rock". Ancient legends tell about the tribes of the goddess Danu, who came to these islands, and then captured Ireland. There is also a legend that the disgraced king Munster was hiding here (the end of the 5th century AD).
Small Skellig is uninhabited, but populated by a huge number of seabirds, including rare ones. Gannets settle here - one of their largest colonies is located on the island. Scientific expeditions studying birds and sea animals are constantly working on Maly Skellig.
The great Skellig, which is often called Skellig Michael, was settled by the monks of the monastery of St. Michael in the era of early Christianity. Now no one lives on the island, but the gloomy beauty of the island itself, the peculiar structures of the ancient Christian monastery attract tourists and filmmakers to it.
The stone cells, crosses and stairs of the monastery are well preserved due to the relief of the island and the climate. It is difficult to land on a rocky island, especially in inclement weather, so the flow of tourists here is limited. At Skellig Michael, tourists carry several small boats, 12 people each, from April to October. Tours take place only in good weather, getting here is not so simple.
Fans of the Star Wars saga immediately recognize Skellig Michael: they shot scenes for the films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (2014-2015). The ancient monastery in Star Wars served as the refuge of Luke Skywalker. Among tourists, there are often fans of the series with luminous wands.
The ancient monastery of St. Michael
The monastery at Skellig Michael was founded at the end of the 6th century AD. Scientists suggest that they founded the monastery of the Copts (an early Christian branch of the Catholic Church), who were persecuted by the Roman Church. The monks left for the island, which was then almost impregnable, and built their monastery of stone on top of a rock. For the entire time of its existence, the monastery was not crowded, no more than 15 people lived there at the same time.
From the ancient monastery survived:
- Monk's stone vaulted cells
- Church of St. Michael
- Oratorios (chapels)
- Gravestones and stone crosses
- Stone staircase in 640 steps.
In the IX century, the monastery was repeatedly subjected to raids by the Vikings, was partially destroyed, but was restored every time. At the turn of the XII and XIII centuries, the monks left Skellig Michael and replenished the brethren of the monastery in Ballinskelligs (island of Ireland). Since the XIII century, no one lived on the island, but later, around the XVI century, the island becomes a Christian shrine, and a stream of pilgrims goes here every year.
Rich in historical events and ancient buildings, the island in the 20th century becomes an object of tourism. After the restoration of the monastery in 1986, a tourist office was opened here and guided tours to Skellig Michael were organized.
The monastery is under the protection of UNESCO and is a World Heritage Site.
In the first half of the 19th century, 2 lighthouses were built on Skellig Michael, rangers arrived with their families, and the island became inhabited again. Over time, one of the lighthouses became unnecessary, and the second was updated 3 times. In the 80s of the XX century, the lighthouse was automated - it has been operating in automatic mode until now, and people have again left the island. Now it is the only open-air museum that awaits tourists in the summer.
Island, ancient monastery