AO 8:04, Jul/Aug 2005
Horizons: The World’s Western Edge: Skellig Michael
Some 1,400 years ago, a group of monks settled on a lonely, barren island to be as close as possible to God.
It is not a peaceful island Eden—not an Innisfree, where man can retreat to a quiet cabin, raise crops, tend honeybees and, as Yeats counsels, “have some peace ... for peace comes dropping slow.”
Rather, it is a desperately lonely, cold and wet outpost—a small monastery set on a rocky perch (Skellig means “rock”), 600 feet above the sea, 7 miles off the southwestern coast of Ireland. Inhabited from the sixth or seventh century A.D. to the thirteenth, the monastery on Skellig Michael epitomizes the extreme asceticism of early Christian Ireland.