The final climatic scene of the latest blockbuster movie Star Wars:The Force Awakens. (For those that haven’t seen it yet, there are NO spoilers here-read on!) A 6th century monastery of the Celt church. What could they possibly have in common??
As I watched the movie’s last scene, thoroughly gripped with what was unfolding before me, a question was in my mind-where was this filmed? And an answer formed. I leaned over to my daughter and whispered, “I think I know where this is.” And I was right! It was the island of Skellig Michael (means the Steep Rock of Michael), just a few miles off the coast of Ireland in County Kerry. One of the most forbidding and dramatic sites of the Celt church and monastic mission movement of the 6th-8th centuries. (See my post in December on the Celts and Church of the East.)
Skellig Michael is now just ruins, unlike other Celt monastic islands like Iona and Lindisfarne that continue to have thousands of pilgrims a year and active resident communities. Perhaps the sheer difficulties of getting to the peak over 715 ft. above sea level up 600 steps is a good reason for the relatively few number of visitors today. Unlike some other monastic movements, the Celts like the Church of the East had many monks who were sent out in mission into Europe and Asia. But it is unlikely there was too much traffic to and from Skellig Michael!
Now a UNESCO protected World Heritage site, Skellig Michael must be one of the most beautiful monastic sites in the world, as well as most remote. It could be compared in some ways to Mt. Athos in Greece, the “Holy Mountain” and site of hundreds of monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church. For several centuries there was an active community on Skellig Michael, with six cells, two chapels, a graveyard, and a garden.
J.J Abrams, the brilliant director and producer of The Force Awakens, as well as others like the latest Star Trek movies, said “I can’t believe they let us shoot there. I mean, it was so beautiful.” Filming the last scene on Skellig Michael has already brought a new generation of tourists there. In fact, Tourism Ireland has even asked the movie’s producing company, LucasFilm, to make a short film where Abrams talks about the island related to his movie.
There is more I could say about the movie’s last scene and parallels to the monks and mission movement of the Celt church of the 6th century. But to do that would give away what happens! Perhaps in a few months when (hopefully) most have already seen it, I will post again. All I can say is that for those who haven’t seen it, the last scene in my opinion will become another iconic moment in cinema history. And to think it was filmed on Skellig Michael!! Yes, the force of the Celt Church has awakened, and it is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinitarian God.
(thanks to Jerzy Strzelecki for the beautiful photo of Skellig Michael island.)