This book explores the Skelligs, Ireland’s most dramatic and beautiful Atlantic islands, and focuses particularly on Skellig Michael, a famous World Heritage Site. It considers why the construction of a remarkable monastic site near the peak of this island over a thousand years ago stands as one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of Christianity. The Book of the Skelligs combines different approaches to deepening our understanding of the islands, combining the perspectives of history, archaeology, cultural geography, oral tradition, literature and natural science. It interprets distinctive features, both physical and human, that shape the unique character of these islands while analysing geology, marine and terrestrial life as well as the historical background and cultural setting of Skellig Michael’s monastic remains. It also considers the impact of the Vikings, and the construction of lighthouses a millennium later. Drawing on appropriate disciplines, the book shows how a unique cultural landscape was generated by human activities over long periods of time.
The editors and contributors have incorporated a wide range of illustrative material including maps, paintings, and photographs throughout the book, many of which have not been published before. It comprises over forty individual chapters and case studies in which the work of academics and independent scholars is combined with that of poets and artists to provide a wide range of perspectives on Skelligs’ distinctive character – both natural and human – during different periods. The aim of the editors is to produce a well-informed, accessible, highly readable and generously illustrated volume that succeeds in conveying a true sense of the complexity and cultural richness of these remarkable islands. The blend of text and images is an important part of the book, making it suitable for a wide range of teaching programmes.
John Crowley is a lecturer in the School of the Human Environment at University College Cork. His main research interests focus on the cultural and historical geography of Ireland. He jointly edited the award-winning Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (2012) as well as the Atlas of the Irish Revolution (2017) which was named Irish Book of the Year. He has also worked on widely acclaimed documentaries based on the atlas publications.
John Sheehan is a senior lecturer in the School of the Human Environment at University College Cork. His main research interests lie in early medieval and Viking Age archaeology. He jointly edited The Viking Age: Ireland and the West (2010) and Clerics, Kings and Vikings (2015) and he has contributed to several award-winning atlas publications.