The monastery on Skellig Michael was founded by St. Finan (Fionán, in Irish), disciple of St. Brendan (484 - 577 A.D.). The medieval text Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (The Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot) tells how St Brendan searched the sea for the "Isle of the Blessed".
St. Finan continued the fascination with the sea during his stay at the Loch Curran monastery at nearby Waterville, Co. Kerry where Inis Uasal (Noble Island) and St. Finan’s Cam. St. Finan is also credited with building a cathedral on Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England.
The monastic site at Skellig Michael rests 600 feet up the 714 foot rock on man-made terraces. It is a collection of small beehive huts (clochán), two upturned boat oratories, a souterrain(an underground chamber, often simply called a cave in Ireland), graveyards and mortared medieval church, all reached via several flights of dry stone and cut rock cut steps (especially from the landings becoming dry stone once out of reach of storm waves), that form three routes from landings on the north, south and east. These paths contain over 2,300 steps.
While St. Brendan searched for a “Blessed Island”, St. Finan left a legacy and a tradition of finding human holiness in the simplicity of the four elements and work in splendid isolation. It is the towering location and achievement that enabled Thomas Cahill to explain in his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization.