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Irish island with ancient monastic ruins up for auction

J-P Mauro - published on 02/19/19

On a clear day, it looks like paradise.

There is a deserted island with 80 acres of pristine Irish-green landscape and Catholic historical significance off the Connemara coast. High Island, also known as Ardoileán, contains the ruins of a 7th-century monastery believed to be founded by St. Féchín of Fore, which is a national monument maintained by the Irish Office of Public Works. Now, you can become the caretaker of your very own monastic ruins, as the island is up for auction at Spencer Auctioneers.

The Irish Times reports archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement of Ardoileán as far back as 300 BC, but some suggest that humans were visiting the island as far back as 1,000 BC. In the 7th century AD, Ardoileán became the home of a hardy group of monks, believed to be led by St. Féchín of Fore, who is the patron saint of the island.

The island still boasts the monastic structures, including the roofless remains of a church with an altar, a completely intact beehive stone hut, and several other stone structures that have fallen into disrepair. There is also the remains of a water mill, which is believed to be one of the oldest examples of an Irish monastic mill. While the owner of the island will be free to visit the ruins, they will be excluded from the sale, as they are still under the protection of the Irish government.

The island contains two freshwater lakes and a plethora of birds, which has allowed the island to act as a bird sanctuary for many years. In the 19th century the land was leased to copper miners, who abandoned their efforts in the 1820s.

32cnamart|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

The ruins of a medieval monastery on High Island, County Galway, Ireland.

In the late 20th century the island came to be owned by Irish poet Richard Murphy, who reportedly loved the idea of the solitude, dictated by weather conditions and the difficulty of reaching the island by boat. It is worth mentioning that the auction house suggests perspective buyers should have access to a helicopter, as the way by boat is “not for the fainthearted.” Of the Island, Murphy said:

“I got excited at the thought of buying this inaccessible holy island, restoring the beehive cells and oratory of its derelict hermitage and preserving the place from destruction,” he wrote in his memoir, The Kick.

However, Author Tim Robinson wrote, “After one spell of five days during which he saw the sun for 20 minutes he gave up spending more than a few hours there at a time,” after declaring that he was “neither a hermit nor a saint.”

Murphy attempted to sell the island to the Irish Government in the 1980s, but their response was much delayed and lacked enthusiasm, causing Murphy to withdraw the sale. He later sold the island in 1998 to his friend Feichin Mulkerrin, who has owned it ever since, maintaining it as a wildlife sanctuary.

Ardoileán is up for sale for €1.25 million ($1.41 million), available to be bid on by all interested parties including the state. The auctioneers note that there is a modern structure on the island with a septic tank, although they note that it is a fixer-upper. The auctioneers would like interested parties to note they “have not tested any apparatus, fixtures, fittings or services.”

ArchaeologyCatholic historyIreland
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