Keills Chapel of St Charmaig, Scotland

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While we were on holiday this year in Scotland, we thought we would go and explore a new region, Loch Keills looked good which is in Argyll.  On the map I saw a sign for a church and thought that looks insteresting, so off we went.

 We found the little Keills Chapel of St Charmaig in Knapdale on the northern shore of Loch Keills over looking the Isles of Islay and Jura.

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The weather was very over cast and we had quite a lot of rain, but luckily for us it stopped while we were exploring, even got the other half out of the car and up the hill.  But the weather added to the drama of the visit and just from looking at the outside we have no idea what a treat we were in for when we entered the chapel.

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Now I know nothing about Scottish grave slabs, not a thing apart from how beautifully sculptured they are, so this is really a visual post with a bit of information.

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This single chambered chapel is typical of churches of the West Highlands in the early part of the 13th century.  This lovely collection of medieval West Highland grave slabs have been recovered from the churchyard and the 7th century cross which formally stood outside, there is a mark to show where it stood.  I think it would have been amazing to have seen them in situ.

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Most of the slabs are dated 14th, 15th & 16th century, but it is thought that people began worshipping here perhaps as early as the 8th century.

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Above is a close up of the Keills Cross which stands at 2 meters tall and dates from the late 8th or early 9th century, reflecting the presence of Christian worshippers on this site.  The cross is carved on one side only.  Four lions surround a central circular boss with St Michael represected above and a seated saint sitting below on the top of the shaft.  Below there are panels of interlace decoration and leaf scrolls.

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The walls of the chapel would have been covered inside and out with render and could have had some painted decoration.

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A few views for you see how remote this little chapel is now, although there are overhead wires.  The wires go to a stone cottage further down the single track road and I know this first hand as trying to find the chapel we went down that road. We went through many gates, right to the edge of the sea and with no turning space, that is where we nearly ended up in the sea.  After a 10 point turn and I mean 10 points, we made it back, then I noticed the chapel high up the hill while I was closing the last gate. But I think you would agree it was worth it.

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8 comments

  1. What a remarkable find. Do you think the swords denote a particular family? Quite an array of symbolism amongst the carving, makes me wonder about the people and society in that remote area all those centuries ago.

    1. I have seen this sword all over Scotland. I think it depicts ‘Justice’. You often see the tri expression up here of..Justice, Liberty and Valour surrounding a sword.

  2. What a wonderful place, Lynne! Interesting to see how they have coped with the lighting in there – clear panes rather than a completely glazed roof. I’m always amazed at how different all these crosses are – this one looks very unusual in design. I love all the grave stone carvings – more swords, and some very interesting details. And what a view! I’m just going to have to go there! 🙂

    1. I would like to go back when the sun is shining as I think it would look totally different, but then there are so many other places to visit and just not enough time 🙂

  3. This reminds me so much of Knap Chapel in Kilmory which is the other side of Loch Sween. I will need to search this one out next time I am up that way.

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