Fintan O’Toole: Beyond belief – why grant Disney’s Skelligs wish for Star Wars?
When monks founded their settlement on Skellig Michael they were literally going to extremes
Production crew and sets on Skellig Michael to film Star Wars Episode VII, last year. Photograph Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a culture that had a strong sense of boundaries and limitations. Fifteen hundred years ago, when monks founded their settlement on the stark sea crag of Skellig Michael, 12km out into the wild Atlantic from the Kerry coast, they were literally going to extremes. They were choosing to live at the end of the world, at the last possible border between the human sphere and everything that lies outside it. And even if we cannot really share their understanding of the world, they did leave us with something truly important: an idea of “beyond”.
They created for us in Ireland a powerful physical image of a notion that might otherwise be abstract, the sense that there are limitations to the rational, pragmatic, everyday way of living. They planted a flag in sacred space and in doing so left us with one of human culture’s great images of the existence of edges beyond which we cannot go.