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Cill Eileagain, chapel 540m south west of Balulive

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8485 / 55°50'54"N

Longitude: -6.1502 / 6°9'0"W

OS Eastings: 140323

OS Northings: 669491

OS Grid: NR403694

Mapcode National: GBR CF68.1Q5

Mapcode Global: WGZHT.H8K9

Entry Name: Cill Eileagain, chapel 540m SW of Balulive

Scheduled Date: 20 June 2002

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2356

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel

Location: Killarow and Kilmeny

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of an early medieval chapel and surrounding burial ground. The monument lies at 90m above sea level, within rough grassland on ground sloping to the E. The monument was last scheduled in 2002, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The chapel and the enclosing wall of the burial ground are visible as low turf-covered banks built into the gently sloping hillside. The chapel measures 5.5m NE-SW by 3m NW-SE internally, within walls approximately 1m thick, and has an entrance in the S wall. The burial ground measures approximately 18m NNE-SSW by 15m transversely and is enclosed by a turf-covered wall up to 1.5m in width. A possible annex to the burial ground extends up to 5m beyond the wall on the WNW side, indicating that the burial ground may have been enlarged at some point during its history.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan. It includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as marked 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 chapel and burial ground are in good overall condition. The chapel is likely to have been of drystone construction, with the stone walls now reduced to turf-covered wall footings.

The dating and chronology of early Christian sites such as this can be difficult on survey evidence alone, but one clue at this site was the discovery of a small, carved cross-slab in about 1960. Measuring 0.41m by 0.34m, the slab is incomplete at the base and damaged along the edges, but it is ornamented with an incised ribbon-cross with plaited centre which terminates in a loose triquetra knot. Its style is indicative of Irish influences and it probably dates from the 10th century, suggesting that the chapel may also date from the 10th century, or earlier. The slab was probably a grave-marker, and its design may have been modelled on similar examples from Glendalough and Iona.

This site has the potential to enhance our understanding of the origins and development sequence of an early and simple ecclesiastical site, including the relationship between the chapel and the burial ground. The interior of the burial ground is uneven and stones are visible occasionally beneath the turf. There are no other obvious grave-markers, although more may be present given that carved stones have been found at the site in the past.

Excavations of similar sites elsewhere in Scotland and Ireland have revealed rich and varied archaeological remains. The chapel and burial ground at Cill Eileagain is thought not to have been disturbed by earlier excavations or alterations, and it survives largely intact. It is therefore highly likely that important early Christian, and possibly medieval, deposits survive, which could contribute towards our understanding of early church construction and burial practices, and the origins, nature and duration of use of early ecclesiastical sites in western Scotland. Any skeletal remains could also reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death and possibly occupational activities. There is also potential for the survival of additional carved stones on the site. These could help us to refine the dating sequence for the site, as well as contributing towards our understanding of early Christian art and sculpture. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the organisation and spread of Christianity in Argyll.

Contextual characteristics

This is a fine example of a small, early Christian chapel and burial ground. Small rural chapels with surrounding burial grounds are particularly common on Islay, with at least 15 known examples, which is interesting in itself. Such sites provide distinctive evidence for Irish influence in Scotland during the early medieval period, a crucial period in Scotland's history, and can help us to understand early political developments, as well as the origins and spread of Christianity. The likely 10th-century and later date for this site is also noteworthy as it may provide rare evidence for the Norse period in Islay. Study of this chapel site, and its comparison with similar examples in Islay, could also help to enhance our understanding of the nature of religious provision for the lay population, and the evolution and development of Christian centres.

The site appears to be in a fairly isolated location in terms of both present day settlement and broadly contemporary sites, although several later medieval sites lie relatively close by: the settlement, burial ground and chapel at Finlaggan is less than 2km to the SW, and another chapel and burial ground is sited at Keills, approximately 1.5km to the SE.

Associative characteristics

The site is depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as Cill Eileagain, 'Chapel (site of)'. The place-name 'cill' is Gaelic, meaning 'church' or 'burial ground' and supports its early origins as a place of worship for the lay population.

The monument is of national importance as the remains of an early ecclesiastical site. The place-name indicates that a church and burial ground was constructed at this site to serve the lay population. Important archaeological remains relating to the origins, use and development of the site in the early Christian period are expected to survive, including burials and possibly additional carved stones. Its significance is enhanced by its capacity to be compared with similar sites in Islay. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate the origins and nature of secular worship and the development of early Christian sites in Islay and more widely across the west of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as Canmore ID 38123. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 2716.

References:

Celoria F 1959, Preliminary handbook to Islay, pp. 57, No. 4.

Fisher I 2001, Early Medieval sculpture in the West Highlands and Islands, RCAHMS/SocAntScot Monograph series 1 Edinburgh, pp. 136.

Lamont W D 1968, Ancient and medieval sculptured stones of Islay, Glasgow, pp. 21-2, 28, 39, 40, 50, 52.

RCAHMS 1982a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 4: Iona, Edinburgh, pp. 68-9, no. 6.

RCAHMS 1984a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, Edinburgh, pp. 165-6, no. 334.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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