‘STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI’ — ON LOCATION IN IRELAND!
The final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi both make one thing clear. Luke Skywalker has, presumably, spent years on his isolated planet of self exile. Here, we are led to believe (so far!) he has been leading a monastic life. The landscape of the rocky island on his watery hermit world certainly oozes with loneliness and quietude — a place for deep contemplation of the Force.
Well, the film’s producers certainly nailed the location, but they weren’t the first to consider this particular landscape inspiring in a spiritual way. The location for the epic meeting between Luke and Rey is Skellig Michael (Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl) and was home to a Gaelic Christian monastery for at least three hundred years.
Skellig Michael, also known as Sceilig Mhór (irish for “Great Skellig”), is the larger of two rocky outcroppings in the wind-whipped ocean off the coast of Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula, part of County Kerry. It has always been a home to seabirds, but also monks from sometime between the 6th and 8th century until the late 12th century.
That is, unless you agree with the Irish legend. It is said that Ir, son of Míl Espáine, is buried on the island. A medieval manuscript also claims that Duagh, King of West Munster, fled to Sceilig Mhór after feuding with the Kings of Cashel. Neither of these historical tales can be verified, but it clearly shows how powerful a place this island is for inspiring people, including Jedi.
The site was dedicated to Saint Michael some time prior to 1044. It was eventually abandoned due to worsening weather and suppression by the Catholic Church of native Gaelic Christian practices. The first clue to monastic activity on the island is a death record for one “Suibhini of Skelig” in the 8th century. Legend claims the monastery was founded by Saint Fionán in the 6th century.
There were probably no more than a dozen monks in residence at any one time. They were attacked by Vikings at least once in 823. The ruins of their little monastery, like the rest of the island, can be visited. The humble buildings stand on a terraced shelf 600 feet above sea level. The six dry-built structures are of the clochán “beehive” dome design. A number of stone crosses, slabs and water cisterns remain, as well as a later medieval church. 19th-century lighthouses stand on the Atlantic side.
Skellig Michael was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Today there are regular boat tours to the island which include tours of the ruins as well as information on the unique environment. Bird watchers love the huge populations of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and more. Bottlenose dolphins and Grey seals may also be seen. If you don’t have access to an X-wing, simply drive to the state-of-the-art visitor center located on the mainland.