Skellig Michael is a 6th century Orthodox monastic site positioned off the coast of County Kerry. It is named Skellig from the ancient Irish language meaning split rock and “Michael” after the Archangel Michael. The actual dating of the monastery is debated but the earliest recorded death we have is of an Irish monk by the name “Suibhini of Skellig” in the 8th century. It is believed to have been a site developed by Irish Saint Finnia.
The site contains a Church, cemeteries, Crosses and a medieval Church. It has 6 ancient Beehive huts where the monks were housed. It had been invaded by the Vikings. In the year 823 the abbot was taken captive by them and starved to death.
In 1861, Lord Dunraven was the first to do a complete archeological survey upon the site. He wrote,
“the scene is one so solemn and so sad that none should enter here but the pilgrim and the penitent. The sense of solitude, the vast heaven above and the sublime monotonous motion of the sea beneath would oppress the spirit, were not that spirit brought into harmony.”Lord Dunraven, 1861
The site passed through many hands until it finally become a world heritage site in 1996. Since then many Christian pilgrims and tourists have gathered at the site. In recent years it had become the site for the popular movie, “The Last Jedi”. In the movie the main character, “Luke Skywalker” has chosen it as his place of isolation.
The interesting thing to note here is that the Irish were the very first to build a sort of Holy Mount Athos. It is suspected that back in the 8th century the climate was very different back then to how it is now and would have been much warmer. The reason for abandoning the island may have been the increasing cold temperatures which made it inhospitable even for the holiest of Orthodox monks.
Therefore its demise is often attributed to this although I’m sure there are many theories out there in development. What did they pray? We can only imagine it had been the popular Jesus prayer. They would have prayed it so much that the walls themselves absorbed the prayer. If you’re a Christian pilgrim who plans on going, put your ears to walls and listen carefully. You will hear the walls themselves pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy On Me, The Sinner.”
We are confident that everyone who leaves the island does so having absorbed the graces of centuries of prayer by the monks who resided there. God bless.