Inishmurray, Ireland - The Traveller


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Inishmurray, Ireland

Inishmurray – Unique Uninhabited Island 

Inishmurray, which means Muireadheach’s island, is a unique uninhabited island which is situated 7 km off the County Sligo coast and is famous for the best examples of early settlement of Christian in Ireland and beyond. It occupies an area of 228 acres and was inhabited by over 100 people in 1880 though it was abandoned in 1948 and has remained a pilgrimage destination till date.

The island is one of Sligo’s top hidden gems and being isolated, it can be accessed only by boat in favourable weather condition. The beautiful journey from Rosses Point passes by the famous `Metal Man’, Coney Island, two eighteenth century lighthouses as well as a requested paid visit to the local seal colony.The island could be named after the early saint Muiredach mac Echdach of early 6th century of Killala.

One will find the remains of an early Irish monastic settlement there where Laisren – Saint Molaise, founded a monastery here in the sixth century. After the Battle of Cul Dreimhne, he was a confessor of Saint Columba on the nearby mainland. The island of Ireland had been attacked various times by the Vikings between the 8th and 9th centuries particularly in 807 and takes pride on strong links to famous saints and patrons like St. Colmcille.

Ecclesiastical Buildings

In the main monastery and in the Cashel area, one will find a 4.6 metres high by a 3 metres thick wall, enclosing the settlement, which still contains some of the ecclesiastical buildings like a stone roofed oratory, a clochan, two churches, a bee-hive hut together with other engraved slabs of stone, which are rumoured to be `cursing stones’.Besides these, one will also find fifteen buildings together with a schoolhouse that is visible on the island.

At the time of the early Christian period a large amount of stone carving took place on the island with over 100 carved stones and slabs in collection most of which have interesting and unusual crosses. It is presumed that the art of Inishmurray could have links with the Holy Land since several of the cross styles were used by crusading knights. A number was carved for grave slabs and another group were set up on the altars that were found scattered all over the island.

Stone Altars in Clockwise Route 

Around 16 stone altars are found arranged in a clockwise route around the island with each station marked by an engraved cross slab. Some of the slabs continue to remain in position though several of them have been moved by the OPW recently since like the slabs in the Cashel, they could be in danger of being robbed. Between 1998 and 1999, most of the altars had been excavated and rebuilt, ten to fifteen meters inland since they were in danger of falling in the sea.

Most of the cross slabs together with the other decorated stone from the Cashel had been locked in the schoolhouse towards the eastern area of the island. The Cashel, an early Christian art gallery has now some seven decorated stones, while the Cursing Stones have been removed to Belfast by the OPW in order to make copies.

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