St Benens Church Hendrickson Fine Art Photo

Desert in the Sea

It is an adventure to journey to the Aran Islands. These rugged islands are found in Western Ireland, in County Galway. Having heard stories of these islands, Barry and I couldn’t wait to visit. We took the ferry from Rossaveal to visit Inishmore, the largest of the three islands. We were prepared to leave our car behind. When exploring this island sprinkled with ancient stone sites, it is necessary to bike, hike or take a pony and trap.


Our trip on Inishmore was in October, often a cold and windy time of year. But we had lots of sun, glorious sun. Barry however, was frustrated by photographing in all of that super bright sun. It was reflecting off the limestone landscape was making for bright and over exposed shots. I remember a local Irish guide in a lilting accent saying, “You are the only person on this whole island, who is cursing the sun!”


We had stayed in Kilronan, near the port. One day we took to exploring the southern part by bicycle. We soon discovered St. Benen’s Church, sitting atop a limestone hill. It cuts a striking silhouette against the skyline.


Although I have to say, calling this building ‘church’ didn’t seem to fit, as it is really small — measuring about 7 x 11 feet in size. It is an intimate place, almost like your own personal chapel. These medieval walls are almost perfectly preserved and are built from large limestone blocks.


Just below the hill, you can see the remains of the Early Christian monastic village started by St. Enda. I find the history of early Christianity fascinating. How believers like St. Edna sought out these remote places — these “deserts in the sea” — to seek solitude, prayer and live an austere life. During three hundred years from about 500 to 800, Inishmore and the sister islands were a famous center for sanctity and learning. This place attracted believers from all parts of Ireland to study the science of the saints in this remote school of the West. 


This photograph brings me back to that remote and rugged landscape, and our adventure in that sacred and austere place.



St. Benen’s Church (Teampall Bheanáin) Shown Above
 Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland
Barry Thomas Hendrickson
© Hendrickson Fine Art Photography


Limited Edition Fine Art Photos of St. Benen’s Church are available in three sizes here. >



Traveling to Aran Islands?
 I’d recommend the hospitality of the Flaherty’s found at the Aran Islands Hotel. They also have a great map of the island Inishmore on their website.