Skellig Michael

  • Oooh, pretty.Name: Skellig Michael
  • Country: Ireland
  • Total number of cultural/mixed heritage sites in Ireland: 2
  • Year added: 1996
  • Criteria: III- [ to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared] and IV – [to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history]
  • Site Size: 219ha
  • Time Period: ~ 600 – 1200 AD
  • Associated Cultural Group: Irish Christian monks

Archaeological Summary

Skellig Michael, or Michael’s rock, is a rocky island about nine miles off the coast of Ireland. This island is home to a Gaelic monastery that was built in the seventh century AD on top of the highest peak on the island, about 230 meters above sea level. There are two peaks on the Skellig; the Northwestern peak contains the ruins of the monastery, while the

Southwestern peak has the remains of an Hermitage that was once connected to the monastery. The area between the peaks is Christ’s Valley. The site is very well preserved because it is so hard to get to, so it has been left alone.

Monastery Diagram

Monastery Diagram

This monastery once housed about 12 monks and an abbot. We can tell from this site that the  monks lived very simple lives, the monastery was built on a cliff on a secluded island

because they wanted to be separated from the rest of the world, probably to bring them closer to God and allow them peace and quiet. Skellig has survived several Viking attacks during the ninth century.  During the thirteenth century the climate became too hostile and the monastery was abandoned.  Since then it has been a popular pilgrimage site for those brave enough to attempt the journey.

This site is important because it is unique. It is an extremely well preserved example of an early religious settlement, and it gives insight into the lives of the ascetic Christian monks. It is an extreme example of Christian monasticism, which makes it very valuable in studying the history of Christianity.


  • There are no known threats to this site at this time.The ruins


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One Response to Skellig Michael

  1. megan says:

    I’d never heard of this site before- those are really cool buildings!

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