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European Heritage campus - 28 July-18 August 1996

"Inventory of the religious heritage on irih off-shore "holy" islands
and development of a caretaking strategy for the monuments"

Twelve Post-graduate from nine different countries spent three weeks on Clare Island. The Campus in Clare Island drew over two hundred and fifty applicants from all european countries, representing the largest group of applicants to any of the campus programmes.

campus 96The final group of 12 participants came from Spain (2), France (2), Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Croatia, Poland (2), the Czech Republic,and Sweden from a diverse range of academic backgrounds,including fine arts and design, architecture, archaeology, sociology,political science and ethnology.

Participants worked on four separate projects:

  • One group prepared an illustrated inventory of holy sites on Irish off-shore islands from Erris Head to Slyne Head. Special emphasis was given to the "holy" islands, those uninhabited islands which contain important early Christian monastic and hermitage settlements and cross slabs, dating from the 5th to the 8th century.
  • Another group worked on a policy document aimed at formulating interpretation, conservation and access policies for these monuments through interviews and consultation with local government planners, tourism planners, tourism managers, officials at the Office of Public Works and representatives of community cooperatives on Clare Island and Inishturk. It was hoped that policy proposals gleaned from one region would be applicable to the other holy islands along the western seaboard, streching from the Skelligs to Inishtrahull.
  • A third group worked on a document designed to present a visual interpretation of the unique medieval wall paintings of Clare Island Abbey. These paintings have been the subject of a major conservation project over the past seven years.
  • Finally, some of the Campus participants documented, collected folklore and made visual interpretations of the two holy wells on Clare Island.

The Campus was treated to a wonderful introduction to the theme of holy islands and island hermitages by Ireland's leading expert on the subject, Professor Michael Herity. Professor Herity flew in by helicopter and held the Campus spelbound for four hours, having taking time off from a field trip to some of the islands in question.

Despite the changeable weather, the group managed to visit Caher island, the Inishkeas, Inishturk (where they met with members of the Comunity Council, and enjoyed the Inishturk half-set as well as contributing some Spanish Flamenco dancing in return). The Campus rounded off their stay with their own pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick.

The Campus was a tremendous success, not only in terms of the work that was carried out in such a sort space of time, but also as regard the richness of the cultural exchange that occured between the participants and organisers and the local community.


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