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Holy Hills of Ireland

42 43 over the water island ways to the beyond Irelands subsiduary islands were repositories of ancient powers. Tory, Donegal, was the ferocious Fomhires citadel, the Aran Islands harboured the Fr Bolg and Donn, god of the dead, lived on another off Kerry. Boa island, Lough Erne, named after the warrior goddess Badhbh, has a remarkable Janusheaded Iron Age statue, and the islands to the west were near entrances to the Otherworld or to Tr na ng, the Land of the Young. Early Christian communities also favoured islands, as they offered some serenity and natural protection, as well as ease of communication by boat. Nendrum in Strangford Lough, the earliest island monastery, was followed by Devenish in Lough Erne, Lambay off Dublin, and others on the Arran Islands, Tory, Holy Island, Clare, the Blaskets, Kerry, and Caher Island, Mayo. The monks particularly liked uninhabited islands as evil powers cannot cross water, and therefore unpolluted communities could flourish on them. An extreme example of this is Skellig Michael off Kerry, a rock rising out of the Atlantic which Irish monks lived on for five hundred years. Indeed the search for clean islands led them far away, as St Brendans tales suggest. In their frail leather covered curraghs Irish monks discovered and settled on Iceland before the Vikings. When they appeared the monks fled, rowing off westwards, to an unknown fate. Above and left The Atlantic island monastery of Skellig Michael, 10 miles off the Kerry coast. For centuries multitudes of pilgrims performed deathdefying penances on it and kissed the cross engraved on the end of a narrow stone projecting out over the sea from its highest point. The island was the last in a chain of prominent features dedicated at a very early date to the dragonslaying archangel St. Michael, patron saint of warriors and mariners. across Europe. Others include St. Michaels Mount in Cornwall, Mont Saint Michel in France and Monte Gargano on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
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