It’s a couple of months now since Part 2 of British Churches, Chapels and Crosses was published so let’s take a look at these final few images on this subject, at least for the time being.
Churches and Crosses
Isle of Islay
To start with I am recalling some images from my trip to the “Queen of the Hebrides”, the Isle of Islay in the Spring of 2010. Although well known for its distilleries of which I believe there are eight or nine it also has at least an equal number of churches, crosses and chapels.
We will start at Kilchoman and “two for the price of one” with its derelict church and cross. Kilchoman (Cill Chomain, meaning St Coman’s church) Cross stands in the burial ground of Kilchoman Parish Church. The church itself, last used some 25 years ago, is now becoming a ruin and is no longer accessible.
The cross dating from the 14th or 15th century is a fine example of West Highland medieval sculpture. An inscription on the cross shaft indicates it was erected by Thomas, son of Patrick, the doctor. It is likely that Thomas and his father belonged to the family of hereditary physicians to the Lords of the Isles who held the nearby lands at Ballinaby and who later adopted the name of Beaton.
Staying on Islay we move on to Kildalton and this time a close-up view of part of the church and a burial slab with an armoured figure built into the recess of the east window in the south wall of the church. To the left of his head, there is an inscription which has been interpreted as reading “Here lies Imar”. Kildalton Cross stands in the burial ground dating to the 8th century, it is the only complete, unbroken, early Christian wheel cross to survive in Scotland. Its fine quality and artistic similarities with Ionian crosses suggest Kildalton was an important Christian site with links to that major centre.
Isle of Mull
Still in the Hebrides but now on the Isle of Mull in the village of Dervaig, pronounced ‘dervig’ which goes right back to Viking times, and indeed the name Dervaig means ‘good inlet’ in old Norse. The settlement itself really only goes back to about the time of the first church to be recorded here in the twelve hundreds.
The original church of Kilmore was built in 1755 and as there is not a complete description of it in the records, it is not known exactly what it looked like. It replaced the nearby Old Parish Church of Kilcolmkill and is believed to have been very similar to the present church of Kilninian which was built at the same time.
The church is particularly well known for its ‘pencil tower’ similar to those in Ireland. The church was renovated in 2004-2005 and is well worth a visit.
North York Moors and Coast
The cross is on wild Spaunton Moor and has been a prominent landmark for hundreds of years. The original cross can be seen in the crypt of Lastingham Church, about 2 miles south of the present structure which stands at an impressive height of over 3 metres. This makes it the tallest cross on the moors but at one time it stood even higher, 8 metres high!
I have cheated a little with the final location is a ruined Benedictine abbey, not a church or chapel overlooking the North Sea above Whitby. The desolate ruins stand stark above steep cliffs overlooking the old whaling village, a testament to the town’s former religious significance. It was disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of Henry VIII.
Whitby itself is steeped in folklore and legend, which, along with the abbey’s foreboding ruins are said to have provided inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece Dracula. In the book, Whitby is the destination for the doomed ship Demeter, which carries Dracula to England.
I hope you have enjoyed this visit to these further churches, chapels and crosses and I will keep my eye out for others to share with you on my travels around the British Isles.
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