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Kilchoman House, cross slab 335m WSW of, Islay

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.78 / 55°46'47"N

Longitude: -6.4456 / 6°26'44"W

OS Eastings: 121354

OS Northings: 663019

OS Grid: NR213630

Mapcode National: GBR BFGF.QDF

Mapcode Global: WGYGQ.YZTD

Entry Name: Kilchoman House, cross slab 335m WSW of, Islay

Scheduled Date: 31 December 1923

Last Amended: 31 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM263

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross slab

Location: Kilchoman

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises a carved stone cross slab likely to date to the early Christian period. The slab is located in an isolated position on rough grazing ground at an altitude of 40m above sea level, approximately 0.9km E of Machir Bay. The cross slab stands 0.95m high and is 0.39m wide below the disc head, which is 0.51m in diameter; the stone is 0.15m thick. The monument was first scheduled in 1923 and rescheduled in 1963, but the documents have been lost: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, measuring 10m in diameter centred on the cross slab, to include the stone and an area around it as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The cross slab is carved from local Lewisian amphibolite-gneiss. It is disc-headed, with a slight projection at the top of the disc, and on each face there is an outline-incised ringed Latin cross with square sunken armpits. The cross on the NW face has a shaft 0.25m long, but the corresponding area on the SE face is damaged. The ornament is now quite badly weathered and the cross slab leans at an angle of approximately 60 degrees from the vertical. The cross is surrounded by loose stones and rocks of unknown significance.

This cross slab has been interpreted as either a sanctuary cross or ringed cross. The first Celtic ringed crosses in the west of Scotland were the great high crosses of the Iona Group inspired by the slabs of Pictland. The great ring-headed cross at Kildalton is dated to around 800 AD. Slabs with Celtic ring-crosses (such as this example at Kilchoman) are therefore traditionally believed to be of 9th-century date. This example adds significantly to our understanding of early Christian sculpture and its part in the growth of Christianity in the W of Scotland.

Contextual characteristics

The monument occupies a conspicuous position on a raised beach overlooking the expanse of Machir Bay to the W. It is one of two early Christian stones found in the area, and the only one still in its original position; the second slab has been removed to the Museum of Islay Life at Port Charlotte. Taken together, these two examples suggest the early Christian foundation of a significant place of worship and burial ground at Kilchoman. It has also been suggested that the cross may have marked out the limits of an area in which criminals sought immunity or sanctuary from prosecution. This cross slab and any associated remains in the vicinity have the potential to enhance our understanding of the evolution of Kilchoman as an important ecclesiastical site. During the medieval period, the church at Kilchoman, with its dependent chapels at Kilchiaran, Kilnave and Nereabolls, served a parish covering the whole of the Rinns of Islay and the site of the medieval burial ground, only 335m to the NE, contains an important collection of medieval carved stones. Kilchoman was an independent parsonage in the gift of the Lords of the Isles. In the 17th century, the parish of Kilchoman was united with that of Kilarrow. The unroofed church currently on the site dates to the 19th century.

Associative Characteristics

The monument is marked on 1st edition Ordnance Survey maps as 'standing stone (sculptured)'. The Gaelic name, 'Cill Choman', suggests that an early place of worship here was dedicated to one of the several Irish saints named Commán.

National Importace

This monument is of national importance because it has the potential to make a significant addition to our appreciation of early Christian ecclesiastical sculpture. Specifically, the monument has the potential to further our understanding of how early ecclesiastical stone carvings were made, their functions, and their role in contemporary religious and funerary practices. The monument has high potential to enhance our understanding of the early Christian societies that created these crosses. It also has the potential to make a significant contribution to our appreciation and understanding of the origins and development of the Christian church at Kilchoman, as well as the wider relationships between this Christian community and others in NW Scotland. The loss of the monument would significantly impede our ability to understand early Christian sculpture and funerary customs in mid Argyll.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

Fisher I, 2001, Early medieval sculpture in the West Highlands and Islands, RCAHMS / Soc of Ants Scot monograph series 1, Edinburgh, p.137

Graham R C, 1895, The carved stones of Islay, Glasgow, plxvii, no.55

Lamont W D, 1968, Ancient and medieval sculptured stones of Islay, Glasgow

p. 13

RCAHMS, 1984, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, p. 194-6, no. 365; p. 196-202, no. 366. Edinburgh,

Ritchie and Harman [J N] G and M, 1996, Argyll and the Western Isles, Exploring Scotland's Heritage series, ed. by Anne Ritchie, p. 105-106. Edinburgh

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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