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Inishmurray
Inishmurray.jpg
Early Medieval Ecclesiastical Site
Geography
Location Atlantic Ocean
Area 0.9 km2 (0.35 sq mi)
Administration
Province Connacht
County Sligo
Demographics
Population 0 (2011)
Inishmurray Teampall Molaise N 2007 08 22
Teampall Molaise, the principal church of the monastery, as seen from the north with the mainland in the background.

Inishmurray (Irish: Inis Muireadheach, meaning Muireadheach's island or Irish: Inis Muirígh) is an uninhabited island situated 7 km (4 mi) off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland.

Geography

The island covers .9 square kilometres (0.3 sq mi).

Etymology

Inishmurray may be named after the early saint, Muiredach mac Echdach (fl. early 6th century) of Killala.

History

There are remains of an early Irish monastic settlement. Laisrén (Saint Molaise) Mac Decláin reputedly founded a monastery here in the 6th century. He was confessor of Saint Columba (Colmcille) after the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne on the mainland nearby. His feast day is 12 August.

The island's ecclesiastical settlement was attacked in 795 and again in 807 by the Vikings, and eventually the monks abandoned the island and it remained uninhabited until the first secular settlement, probably in the 12th century.

Monastery

The enclosure wall is impressive - reaching 4.5 metres (15 ft) in height at its highest point and up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick. The site contains various ecclesiastical buildings including enclosures, a stone-roofed oratory, two churches, a clochán, a large beehive-shaped cell, a holy well and other remains including cross slabs suggesting foreign influences. The whole complex is composed of what is probably local sandstone rubble.

Recent history

The local population peaked at just over 100 in the 1880s but the last residents moved out to the mainland on 12 November 1948. Some of the buildings are still visible including 15 houses and the island's school. The site remained a pilgrimage destination right up to recent times. In 2018, the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport caused controversy when it banned commercial operators from landing visitors on the island, due "to concerns for safety during embarking and disembarking".

Literature

  • Jerry O'Sullivan and Tomas O Carragain: "Inishmurray: Monks and Pilgrims in an Atlantic Landscape", Collins, Cork, 2008, ISBN: 9781905172474 (v. 1)
  • Joe McGowan: Inishmurray: Island Voices, Aeolus Publications, 2004, ISBN: 0-9521334-3-1.
  • John Haywood: The Historical Atlas of the Celtic World, Thames & Hudson, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-500-28831-3.
  • H.Th. De Booy: Het spook van Inish Murray (Ghost at Inishmurray - fiction). Deltos Elsevier, Amsterdam/Brussel 1971, ISBN: 978-9-010-05509-5.
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