Remember that scene in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”? The one where Rey meets Luke Skywalker on the majestic island in the middle of the sea?

The scene looks so incredible because it is a real place – the Skellig Michael off the southwest coast of Ireland. The island, which basically looks like a giant rock jutting out of the sea, is named after St. Michael the Archangel, and was once inhabited by Gaelic monks.


While currently uninhabited and incredibly difficult to get to – the tide only allows for passage to the island at very specific times of the day – that didn’t stop Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln and a small group of his friends from visiting the mysterious island after graduating from college.

“I saw them from a distance when I was there as a student, and we had done some camping and we had seen these huge…rocks sticking out of these islands, and I always thought I’d love to go back,” Conley told CNA.

After graduating, he and a friend traveled back to Ireland where they had studied abroad, and tried to find a fisherman willing to take them out to the Skellig.

“The harbor is really tricky and dangerous to get in, you have to go there when the tide is just right because the water doesn’t get high enough to let you off,” Conley recalled, “and you could only stay on the Skellig for like an hour.”

But yea though ewok through the valley of the shadow of death, Bishop Conley feared no evil, and found a fisherman brave enough to take his group of friends to the island, because Han-YOLO.

A new convert to the Catholic faith at the time, Conley said that what drew him to the island was the monks that used to live there and whose dwellings can still be found largely intact on the island.


“I was newly Catholic, and we’d read about these incredible monks that would live on these rocks and pray, and there was no soil so they had to build beds with seaweed to grow any food,” Conley recalled.

“And they lived this incredibly ascetic existence on this cold rock and all they did was pray, they were kind of like those early ascetical monks that lived in the desert and lived these existences that you can hardly even imagine today,” he said.

The monks of Skellig Michael are believed to have lived there starting somewhere in the 6th-8th century, and stayed until the 12th or 13th century, at which point the island was abandoned.

Once he and his friends landed on the island, Conley had only about an hour to explore before the tide receded again, so they climbed to the top of the stairs on the island, where they found the remains of the monks’ chapel and altar.

“I remember this one girl she had a violin in her backpack, and I remember she was playing this beautiful music on the top of this rock in the middle of the ocean,” he said.

“And it was the exact place where the scene was shot at the very end of the Force Awakens where Luke Skywalker and Rey, the main protagonist, meet. When I was watching the movie I recognized that, and I had kind of forgotten about it, I recognized that it was the exact place where we sat.”

It was a “very mystical experience…it was a very powerful experience mainly because we knew these holy monks had lived this life on this rock and they prayed and offered Mass there, you could see the remains of the altar. So we knew we were on a very holy place,” he said. 

The next Star Wars movie, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premiers Dec. 13. Conley said he plans to see it.