consisted of water pavilions, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits, and water courses, many designed as cooling devices with carefully considered visual and aural effects. The largest water garden had a central island linked to the “mainland” by causeways that formed four L-shaped pools with different water levels, designed for different functions. A narrow fountain garden was flanked by four moated islands, oriented perpendicular to the central axis of the water garden; their summer palaces were reached by bridges cut into the rock. An octagonal pond marked the point where the water garden met the asymmetrical boulder garden, set at a higher level, with its sinuous paths and natural boulders. A massive masonry wall ran from the octagonal pond to the bastion on the southeast, where wide brick walls connecting a series of boulders surrounded a rock-cut throne. Not all the gardens have been excavated and described.

When Kasyapa died, Moggallana seized Lion Rock and promptly deserted it as the capital, fixing the seat of government at Anuradhapura. Rediscovered during the British occupation of Sri Lanka, the archeological reserve and historic site of Sigiriya was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982. Conservation work continues. In 1990 an area of 12,600 acres (about 5,000 hectares) around Sigiriya was declared a wildlife sanctuary. The UNESCO-sponsored Central Cultural Fund has begun restoring Sigiriya’s water gardens, and the Sigiriya Conservation Policy means that the gardens will be stripped of all introduced plant species, leaving only the ancient flora.

Further reading

Bandaranayake, Senake. 1999. Sigiriya: City, Palace, and Royal Gardens. Colombo: Ministry of Cultural Affairs.

Wijesinghe, Piyadasa. 1997. Sigiriya and the God-King of Sri Lanka. Colombo: ANCL Book Publishing Project.

Skellig Michael


Skellig Michael (Sceilig Mhichil), or Great Skellig, is the larger of a pair of forbidding limestone pinnacles—the other is Small Skellig—jutting from the Atlantic Ocean about 7 miles (12 kilometers) off the Valentia peninsula at the southwest tip of Ireland. Skellig Michael, only 44 acres (17 hectares) in area, is dominated by two crags, one of 712 feet (218 meters) and another of 597 feet (183 meters). On top of the latter, reached via steep, winding stairways cut from the rock, there is an artificial platform with a cluster of six circular drystone huts (clochans), two boat-shaped oratories, some stone crosses, and a cemetery—all that remains of a monastery established, possibly by St. Fionán, sometime in the sixth century a.d. and called “the most westerly of Christ’s fortresses in the Western world.” This monastic foundation on Skellig Michael was one of many in which the Christian tradition was preserved as the rest of western Europe was plunged into a dark age. As the art historian Kenneth Clark once put it, European civilization escaped by the skin of its teeth.