This small island off the west coast of Ireland recently became a film star, but Skellig Michael has a rich history all its own. An ancient monastery, lighthouses and the island's status as a bird sanctuary all make up its story.
Learn more about your ad-choices at https://news.iheart.com/podcast-advertisers
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Ok, honey, I'm in least that new car today, but first years flashcards ago. Releasing vocabulary quiz me. You do not need to know how these you down here. This is the right of people to carry one and they give you a simple price. Then they deliver the car to our house partial because I didn't know any of those words. Not one wealth, to the future of leasing rota lets you choose from hundreds of cars deletes. The pricing is Crystal clear and will deliver the car right to your house so down the road of act or go to roto. Dotcom today will continue stuff. You missed in history class, from how support stock allow among them with upon can hardly fry and I'm crazy. We will think of yours, star wars, SAM and, frankly, even if you're not, you have probably seen theme of Luke Skywalker in the force awakened in promotional materials for the last
where he and eventually re or standing on an island with ancient looking, structures on it, that is a real island. That's another set in those pictures are also not sets that were built for the film. They are part of a real thing. it ancient Schelling MIKE all the island where scenes were shot, is a historic site with a fascinating, his All its own is also got to have a nice juxtaposition, because a big chunk of its history is is much older and then there's a newer history of some of the more modern things that have been built on the island. So since I have star wars, rabies and I can barely manage to contain myself away from last night, a premiere, Andy, This really is a legitimately very, very interesting, historical site. I thought it might be funded delve into this location in its rich history, for the pond casts you if you were concerned based on a number of times.
Said the last jet I we're not going to be talking about anything in the movie at all on island at all. There are no limits. All the star wars talk except a story about filming at the end Senate. Even that does not to do so. We're not gonna spoil anyone only thing ruling star wars. You would have had You have not gone to see the fourth awakens. Yet for that you have been a spoiler. Yes, I don't know, maybe I'll bet illicit boy. If you have gone to see the force awakens, then I would have to have been in media black out, because its appeared on so many lake magazine. covers television shows, You know, interviews are often inner cut if you see them until miss shots. Violin. So it's not. I don't think we're giving anything away. I feel confident that we have skirted any
right. There had her. Well, I think if you have not yet seen force awakens you probably don't care about star wars, spoilers right None of which are mere anyway. We are literally just talking about the history of this and want to be very clear, very aim. Schelling Michael is one of two islands that make up the scaling islands. The word Scaliger derives from the irish word. We're steep rock and then the other island is the smaller one of the two. It's called little island when its close to visitors. Sometimes you also see you scaling Michael called the great Schelling yet also you'll, see it spelled in various different ways were going with kind of the most basic globally facings vowing. They give you used a lot, it's probably the Americans spelling. That's just the scoop on that. If you see a spell the different way, that's why and scaling. My goal is seven miles at eleven point. Six.
Kilometers west of the edge of Ireland's ever up an insular in county, carry the highest elevation of the island, is seven hundred and fifteen feet. That's about two hundred and eighteen metres, and this island is tiny, It is less than a square mile in area. So if you do hectares twenty nine, twenty one point: nine heck tears the Minister for Arts Heritage and the girl Taft OWN Schelling, Michael on behalf of the Irish. people and there's also a lighthouse and support buildings for the lighthouse on the southern end of the island, as well as a hell. A pad, and this portion of the island falls outside of the ownership arrangement mentioned above we'll get a little bit more into that in a bit. The geological make up of Schelling Michael, is: what's called old, red sandstone, sedimentary layers of rock deposited somewhere, between three hundred sixty three hundred seventy four million years ago during the devonian period, when Ireland was part of a much larger continent, it's the western most european instance of Devonian, Saint Sandstone,.
can be found throughout Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and Greenland also importance of Canada. Schelling Michael also has two twin peaks, with a valley in the middle, which has come to be known as Christ's saddle I'm not help had that. We mention briefly, is for emergencies, only that's not a standard way to get on and off the island or special cases. from the middle of May two September visitors He traveled who's going my goal, but only by boat, and it is for Davies's exclusively, and I should also mention that, sometimes if they have had damage in the winter, they will shorten that window. The visitors can come. Tourists also cannot stay overnight on the island and there are no amend basically do you go for a little while and you get back on the boat. You leave the island, so designated a statutory nature reserve, so no animal visitors are allowed and no trash can be left behind the animals.
Most commonly benefit from the islands. Reserves status are birds. Seabirds often nest there during their respective breeding seasons. Scowling Michael, is considered. One of the most important grounds for birds in Ireland and for some species. It's one of the most important places in the world. The storm petrol and makes sheer water have some of largest breeding groups on the island and also home to puffins, which I love and kittiwake, among others. Pilgrim falcons also nest there. Every year- and there are a few mammals on the island as well, including gray, feels house mice and rabbits also of interest in terms of its natural make up
is the likely that grows on Schelling, Michael therein. Actually one hundred and twenty eight different species of lichen found on this tiny rocky island and too, like an cola's fungi, that's enough to classify it as a nationally important site for liken growth based on conservation study that was conducted in two thousand, to get see more of the human and made the structures scaling. Michael. also home to a monastery that was built hundreds of years ago and we're gonna get into the history of that and more detailed descriptions of the monastery and just a bit, but at first but first we're gonna talk about how it exists there. Today the settlement has two different segments and the first is the monastery itself, which is built on islands, east side high up on sloping areas of work.
The monastery has three access points, all of which involve navigating a lot of steps, a lot of steps like they actually say in the vicinity of the visitor stuff that you may read like the visitors adviser basic. Please don't come if you're not ready to take on like six hundred steps, because it is vigorous, work and it's not there's not an easy way up. There's the leg is that there are no amenities, there's no elevator, but there are no cheer lips. You have to handle it yourself. Those steps are really amazing because their cut from the rock of the island from the landing point where you would first set foot on the island up to the highest point where water can possibly reach and then, above that height, the steps continue, from then on their made of dry stone, masonry the structures within the monastery included church to oratory, seven beehive cells, water cisterns. and a cemetery locked, which I have also heard Irish, we will say Lee ACT lacked
the square or rectangular structure, but with layers of stones, but no mortar, while they have found that a number of irish early Christian monastic sites their function is an entirely clear. There have been several theories, including that they may have marked graves of important, wholly people or were used to house relics or had some sort of social spiritual function, and there also, two large garden terraces, and retaining walls which form the foundation of the entire site. The second area of construction is separate from the monastery itself on ledges of the South peak its composed of several structures and for including an oratory alter, lax and water cisterns steps cut out of the rock provide access to these structures, which are too an archaeological Strata Graphic report written in twenty eleven as daringly constructed, I sort of field
way about everything on Scully, Michael, it's so beautiful, but I don't know that I am its target visitor because hoping I would spend the whole time screaming and fear that I would just fall. It's all very steep that name is apt We're gonna go a little bit deeper into talking about those daring structures that Tracy just mention and where they fit into the island's history, but first we're going to pause for a quick sponsor break. This happened. Stuff you missed in history, glasses brought. You buy Norton three sixty with lifelong, let's just say, shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time. They sure feels that your personal info is right there in your hand, but that's not always the case. Yes, because as soon as you hit submit your personal information could start going other places in fact, shop, bank or browse online. Your personal info can get out Your control, which can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals more threats, demand more protection. why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company Norton three six,
he would lifelong is an all in one membership for your cyber safety that gives you device security, identity theft, protection and of GPS for online privacy. No one can Van all cyber crime and identity theft, but Norton three sixty with life lock, is your ally in today's connected world, because your info is out there sign up for Three sixty with lifelong today and save twenty five percent or more of your first year, go to Norton dot com, slash history, that's Norton, DOT, com, slash history for twenty five percent off. The first known reference to Skellig Michael goes all the way back to one thousand seven hundred BCE. Its reference is the place where the Prince e r v son of malicious died when his ship was separated from the rest of his fleet during a storm crashed upon a rock and sink
This is, however, a folk Warwick account, so it remains unverified. Another unverified story of scowling Michael set in the fifth century in this instance after a conflict between the kings of castle in the kings of Munster, the king of West Monster theme, the walk is said to have fled to sculpt, Michael and, while this event is written as have happened in the fifth century that a cow was recorded either. The eighth or the ninth century sets its accuracy is hard to gauge. We know for certain based on the structures that we talked about earlier the monks moved into the island at some point. But exactly when that happened also isn't clear. The earliest estimates place it at the place. The start of the monastery somewhere in the sixth century, although it could have been built at as late as eighth century and then the earliest noon. Reference to the monastery is an animal entry from the year. Eight hundred twenty four, which describes a nurse raid on Schelling Michael
there's a lot of disparate accounts that that place that at different times, but it somewhere in there. I think most people tend to favour the earlier thing, because a lot of the accounts they happen later on and we'll talk about it in a minute suggests that it was our functioning. The position of this monastery is actually quite well chosen at six hundred feet above sea level and where it sits on the island them and in relation to its peaks, offer some natural shelter and it has plenty of stones to use in building ass. The monks could access stone from right there on the island.
Will these structures and it enabled relatively easy water collection, so channels were cut into sloping stone to direct water right into cisterns that they had placed in the two primary cisterns that were used were built to hold roughly a hundred and twenty gallons. That's about four hundred and fifty leaders of water. One of the unique aspects of the monastery is the cell structures that are sometimes described is as be hives is hives are shaped, like inverted elliptical, parabola waits, so not be hives like the flat ones in boxes that are manufactured, but the domed. Why the bees would act, build on their own yeah. That is sometimes people keep bees and baskets letter that shaped like an inverted semi domes sort of structure they have a doorway built into the front of each of them and steps that lead in and out of doors. The bee have cell
all arranged along the monasteries, large oratory, but there are some differences among them, and the cells are lettered for identification, yeah just for clarity. The cell letter order does not in any way pertain to their age order, which I was trying to explain this to to a friend, and they got a little thrown by that. So just now that this, the aid through Gee, does not in any way suggests that a came first them she was at the end. There was completely separate naming still systems so so aid is the largest one. It actually has a second interior level and its
to have been a communal space and it's quite large at the base of the structure, the walls of Zella are one point. Eight metres thick, so that's almost six feet in the interior. Space is about fifteen by twelve point five feet. That's about four point: six by three point: eight metres and there's an interior height of sixteen feet. It's about five meters cells B and c smaller thereabout, two thirds the size of cell. A cell d is actually no longer intact, but it was probably the oldest sell on the site. Probably collapsed before cell see was completed, so he is bigger than b and c but smaller than a like a word problem, but as a team cell ass, a small in size to be in sea when and how these interior slabs that are arranged in a manner that suggests that might have been a sleeping area. These cells were built at various points in time and they aren't ya.
in their size. As noted or in the way, the stone work is done yet pretty clear evidence that they were worked on at various points a time. So it's it's spans some number of years there is a central church at the monastery that is Saint Michael's and, if partially collapsed, and what would have been its roof, which would have had made of wood is long gone. The church appears also to have not been built all at the same time, but in two different stages: the second one to expand on what was a fairly small church that was built in the first phase, while a prominent in an impressive aspect of the monasteries design is its retaining walls. They have experienced multiple structural failure is dropped. The life of the site, beginning when it was still occupied, the walls of the focus of a lot of conservation and preservation work over the years, yet their amazing
that they really are. You know holding up all of this man made structure, but they definitely are bearing the weight of their main restructure and as a consequence, sometimes they get tired and they break up cells. Don't really get around I don't really get tired. I now nobody needs tell me, but they so. The daring structures that we reference a while ago make up what's come to be called the hermitage and in the modern era. These manmade structures on scowling, Michael South Peaks, their little bit away from the others, were first referenced in eighteen, forty, one man, Bing survey, and then they made another appearance on record in the eighteen fiftys. When Lord done Raven visited the island and wrote of having seen the ruins of a quadrangular building there. The south peak ruins were noted again by visiting scholars and the nineteen fifties, but it actually wasn't until the nineteen eighties that a study of the site was ordered by the Office of public works. There are three
Harris's that make up the hermitage there's a garden and dwelling terrorist. That's forty three feet. That's about thirteen metres long! There in width from six point five to thirteen feet, which two to four there's one end of the terrorists, which includes a section of the retaining wall, was about five feet for one and a half yours high, and that remains intact. The other end of it, though, has collapsed. The oratory terrorist sits at right angles to the garden and dwelling terrace in its about thirteen feet as four metres higher up on the peat on this terrorist is a small oratory with an interior space of seven point five by six point. Five feet is about two point three by two meters and this terrorist extends far pass the oratory to the east, although it is quite a narrow sort of terrorists that you're you're on at that point from the
It's very terrorist. The outer terrace used to be reachable via traverse that was chiseled from the stone by the monks, but in modern times at the place, that's really best visited by skilled climbers and no one else. It's treacherous to navigate the ledges that you have to move across its not clear. If that outer terrorist was ever come, We did an it's often unclear what its function was you. I watched a brief good news, real of a team that was going up when they were doing some preservation investigation and it's like look. We found handheld lick their look bitterly basically just scaling up the rock face until they actually found something that a human could stand on. So it is not just something you would go here: let's go there, it's again, not a place that maybe visit, because it looks terrifying some time before the early eleven century, the island monastery was dedicated to Saint Michael Saint. Vienna is also closely tied to the history
the monastery and may have been its founder he's. Often reference does the founder, but again it's all a little unclear methods of the late twelfth three indicated the settlement was occupied and having regular mass at that point, but soon after in the thirteenth century, shifting structure in Ireland and increased instances of inclement. Whether I and around island led the of the monastery to be abandoned monks who had been living there, move to the mainland village of balance. Colleagues and after that point, the monastery at Schelling Michael, was considered part of the balance colleagues model.
every year, but it wasn't really. It's not believe to be occupied. At that point, it is kind of was was noted as part of their their larger organizational structure, but again, like there had been a shift in climate than they ve. It really was not easy or safe to occupy the area any longer for the fourteenth of the sixteenth century is the island appears on navigational charge that were used by both italian and burying seafarers. The monastery was officially closed in the sixteenth century. With Henry the eighth dissolution, a monastery Yes, and it passed into private ownership by a family named butler. The butler family retained ownership of the island until eighteen, twenty one November of eighteen, twenty J Butler, was approached by the government's board of works about a permanent lease on the island, so that two lighthouses could be built there. And after some back and forth, legal acts investigating the situation determined that butlers legal ownership of the land was not clearly documented. After an appraisal of the problem,
DE the Butler S. Bay was paid. Seven hundred eighty pounds for Schelling, Michael and the commissioners of irish lights assumed ownership of it for you to talk about the lighthouse. Is it just a moment, but first working I have another short sponsor break episode of stuff, you missed in history, glasses, brought to you by Norton three sixty with lifelong, what they you're sure online with your smartphone. Its super feels like ear. Personal information is just right there in your hand, but that's not always the case, because, as soon as you hit submit your personal information could going other places. In fact, whenever you shop Bank or browse online, your personal invoking get out of your control, and that can we be vulnerable to cyber criminals. More threats demand more protection. Why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company Norton three sixty with life. is an all in one membership for your cyber safety that gives you device security, identity theft, protection and a VP end for online privacy. No one can prevent all cybercrime and identity theft, but nor in three sixty with life
is your ally in today's connected world, because your information is out there sign up for Norton three sixty with lifelike today and save twenty percent or more off your first year, go to Norton dot com, slash history, that's Norton, DOT, com, slash history for twenty five percent off Construction, another to live houses. It's going Michael began in August of eighteen, twenty one inspector George, how been designed things and roadway and oversaw initial construction. The lighthouse road runs from the Upper Lighthouse sites, which is on the western side of the island, south the coast and then around the island, south and east edges to the east landing. There is no road along the northern shore of the island,
there aren't many records of the actual construction process, but both light houses were completed and induced by the end of eighteen. Twenty six, power of the two lights was nearly four hundred feet. That's a hundred twenty metres the high water mark, but the visibility range of twenty five miles or forty kilometers The lower light was a hundred seventy five feet or fifty three point three metres above the high water mark, with a visibility range of eighteen miles or twenty nine kilometers, both non moving lights. In a sad note in eighteen, sixty nine, so more than forty years into the lighthouse, his life, a small modern grave, was added to the chapel at Schelling. Michael that point light housekeeper, W Callaghan buried two of his small children there, after both had died of an illness. He then requested and was granted a transfer elsewhere, as he was concerned for the health of his remaining child. So there is one instance of a modern I'm using their quote, since it wasn't me
hundreds but a modern grave there at the site. The upper light was in service for forty four years until it was the planted by another lighthouse north of the Skelly Islands in eighteen. Seventy the lower lighthouse has remained in use, is still in use today, although there has been an update to it that will talk about in a moment there there is actually a couple of days, but the office of Public works took possession of the monastery as a state guardianship in eighteen. Eighty with the intent to repair the crumbling structures. the stand, which an ongoing plan for conservation of the site in nineteen o nine, the lower lighthouse, was renovated and updated with a rotating, more powerful light. The lower light and the original rubble masonry tower remained in use for a hundred forty six years it was extinguished in nineteen. Sixty six and a temporary lantern was there they had while an entirely new terror was built.
Following year. The new lighthouses on line boasting another upgrade to one point: eight million candles light in nineteen. Sixty nine Schelling Michael's help had was constructed on the eastern coast of the island and that help had is made of reinforced concrete and three very thick column support it off the cliff face. It is terrifying, as everything else silly, looked at on the cliff side, but open side of the hill Lappin, it is a one hundred and twenty one foot or thirty seven meter drop directly into the ocean and nineteen. Seventy eight Schelling Michael became the focus of a long term concept some project at that point. A retaining wall near the church. That's part of the monastery saint Michael, had experienced, struck or failure, and was prioritized as the project's first order of business.
additionally, steps that were leading up to the main entrance of the monastery also needed restoration. Natural water erosion had claimed some of the lower sections that reach into the water line and heavy use of these stairways during periods of lighthouse construction had also really damage where the masonry aim, only one of the three stairways leading to the main monastery is currently accessible to visitors. in nineteen. Eighty excavation work began at the site about work, has continued for decades, the national monument Arrests of Ireland was responsible for these efforts. That organisation, part of various government departments over the years, but its work at Schelling Michael, has continued seasonably throughout all those reorganizations yeah. There's a narrow window winter, you can't really go theory. Do any sort of excavation to examine the ruins, because this is too cold in nineteen. Eighty one project was completed that had begun and nineteen seventy eight to finally automate the lighthouse in
team. Eighty nine, the commissioners of irish lights, sold the island Schelling Michael to the state, which was already the guardian of the monastery, with the exception of the remaining active White House and its related structures. The other commissioners of irish light still retain that lighthouse area and then a ninety. Ninety six Schelling Michael became a UNESCO world heritage site on our tobler twenty? Second, two thousand one that lighthouse was converted to solar power, a lamp change which was done at the same time reduce the lights reached. Ninety my These old generators are still on hand, Rebecca power in twenty term. The focus of archaeological effort shifted to the lighthouse Road and in twenty thirteen, seven tons of stone were brought to the island via military air, lived to be used in the roads
reason there have been two rescue operations: lots trends, Schelling Michael debate. On October, twenty eight nineteen sixty three of its light housekeepers helped rescue to boatloads of survivors from the Ss Marina for the british cargo ship that had been to repeat owed A german you bout, while eighteen men died and the attack more than a hundred were saved. The three keepers were awarded one pounds from the Board of Trade additional guinea from Ss Marinas owner Mcdonald's online. Yet they each got that a word on February, twenty, seventh nineteen, forty four, an error exploded in mid air after colliding with the highest peak of the island and falling in pieces into the water and british aircraft and the light housekeepers of selling Michael executed a search, but neither the wreckage nor any survivors were ever found.
Fortunately, we use the scaling. Michael ever filming location has been the source of some friction. Archaeology specialist voiced concerns about the safety of the monastery and bird. What Ireland, which is an independent conservation group, criticized Ireland's Minister of arts for approving the use of the island, is location. Bout involving a third party specializing in conservation and bird habitat assessment and unfortunately those concerns were brought into sharp focus in twenty fourteen. When a helicopter on a site, scouting Flay caused a number of kitty weakness to be disturbed. The down draft from the choppers propeller caused some of the checks to be swept into the sea and they were killed by seagulls. After this incident, everyone involved reassess the situation. Additional flights work. Sold. The filming schedule is was reviewed to avoid the primary kittiwake breed breeding season, although other birds- still thing on the island. Paused continued concern on the part of Bird Watch Ireland Bird
Ireland's point of view is that there was a breach in established Eu Protocol. By doing it. This way, the office of the Minister of arts remained insistent. Now that the European Union Habitats directive was upheld. So there's some disagreement on that point. I did notice. There are a few instances regarding skilling, Michael outside of this, where there is disagreement about her
restoration has been handled or whether you know everything has been executed in the proper way into the letter of the law at it. Usually everything I found this turns out to be a very similar back and forth of you didn't wrong. No, we didn't. We did everything like this. We don't agree with you. We think you're lying like that. Just goes on and on and on so it's a little heart departs out Schelling, like all of us, to me the sight of much disagreement, but to end all of this. On a more poetic note, it seems fitting to mention the island, as it was seen through the eyes of one of Ireland's most famous creative minds. The nineteen ten writer George Bernard Shaw visited Schelling Michael, and it made a very strong impression. He later wrote the following quote, but for the magic that takes you out far out of this type
in this world. There is Schelling, Michael ten miles off, carry toast, shooting straight up seven hundred feet, sheer out of the Atlantic. Whoever has not stood in the graveyard and their beehive oratory does not know Ireland through and through its lovely. It is very lovely thanks. George Bernard Shaw Do you also have lovely listener meal? I feel I have a lovely mail which involves gifts from our listener: Angie Curates, dear Tracy and Holly, I'm a relatively new listener, but my addiction to listening to your show daily has caught me up quite a bit and currently living in South Korea with my family. Since my husband is in the military maybe you're show, is helped the isolation that can come from living in a rural area of a foreign country. Where, I am embarrassed to admit, I can barely speak any Korean. So I want to thank you for being here. ends everyday, while I've taken care of my two year old and my daily tasks, the friends than I am
You're very much aware of my fan girl status with your past, and they will ask me what new and interesting topics I have recently learned about. So it makes me happy knowing that I'm sharing knowledge in a time where entertainment has seemed more important than learning, and luckily, for me, your podcast is both entertaining an educational. She mentions that her physical therapists, who is korean, asked about our park ass and she told him about our Prince Otto episode and he said that he is a descendant of Prince Otto being able to trace back his family history, since it is very common for korean families to have records of their lineage dating back hundreds of years, and she talked about the korean holiday. That kind of is the equivalent of thanksgiving where everyone travels home, its traditional food and visits, their ancestors burial sites to make food offerings and finally, ending the holiday with a midnight dance under the harvest. Moon. This is one of the holidays where every store stocks up with expensive spam give sets which he briefly mentioned during your spam podcast. I wanted to say
some traditional treats that we enjoy, and then she describes them. There's these super yummy little confectionery is that she sent she's. They were moving next month to allow who- and I join my husband- that the army is taking us on a world wide tour of spam, first curdy her and now Hawaii and lucky for as we enjoy eating it. I can't wait to be able to strike up a conversation with a local about the history of spam. Pineapple industry, indoor leprosy of though I might get some suspicious, looks from that last one shells attacks a little bit about, took you dizzy, Linen Disney see, but thank you for this amazing parcel. She sent us a lot of different stuff so you're in the office next, which is soon it will pick through it and taste everything yea so Angie. Thank you so much what a delightful treats like we get some of the best, if I feel very spoiled wireless hers. If you would like to write to us, though, feel you have and ass a gift, you could just write to us very mail at history. Pie, guest house therefore start com. You can also find us across the spectrum of social media as missed in
stream. We are also at risk in history, dot com, where you can find every show that has ever existed the podcast, including those way before senile, wherever involved in it and showed him for any of the ones that Tracy and I have worked on us along and listen to history with us at mister history, there for more on that thousands of other topics visit, Housetop works, dot com future is closer than you think, and it all starts. In the palm of your hand, you may have heard the news five g is coming in this new. I series, time tomorrow presented by team above a business join me. As one option and my co host car price as we walk Through the true revolution in mobility that will check
the way we interact with the world around us join us, and here How close we are getting to a more collective future time tomorrow is now available on the eye, hot radio app or wherever you listen to port costs,