9.2 St Moluag's Chapel, Eoropie, Isle of Lewis

Eoropie township is on the northwest tip of the Isle of Lewis. It is the most northerly township in the Outer Hebrides.

Chapel of Eoropie © Alan Sproull

This restored chapel is dedicated to St Moluag or Moluoc. The building is flanked by two small side chapels to the north and south, creating a T-shaped outline.

The date of the chapel is unknown. The plan is similar to a ruined church at Gardar in Greenland built in the 12th century and extended in the 13th century. There are a number of churches dedicated to St Moluag in Ireland and the west of Scotland also dating from this period. There are stories that St Moluag visited this site in the 6th century but there is no documentary evidence for this. Another story tells that the first chapel here was built by a son of the king of Scandinavia.

Pilgrims used to visit the chapel in search of cures for insanity and sores. People suffering from insanity were given water from a nearby well dedicated to St Ronan and tied to the altar for the night in the hope that they would be sane in the morning. In 1630 it was recorded that people looking for a cure for sores and who could not visit the chapel in person would send a wooden version of their limb to be placed on the altar.

Martin Martin writing his ‘Description of the Western Isles’ in the late 17th century records another former local tradition:-

They were in greater veneration in those days than now: it was the constant practice of the natives to kneel at first sight of the Church, though at a great distance from them, and then they said their Paternoster. John Morison of Bragir told me that when he was a boy, and going to the Church of St. Malvay, he observed the natives to kneel and repeat the Paternoster at four miles distance from the church.

The inhabitants of this island had an ancient custom to sacrifice to a sea-god called Shony, at Hallow-tide, in the manner following: The inhabitants round the island came to the Church of St. Malvay, having each man his provision along with him; every family furnished a peck of malt, and this was brewed into ale; one of their number was picked out to wade into the sea up to the middle, and carrying a cup of ale in his hand, standing still in that posture, cried out with a loud voice saying, "Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you’ll be so kind as to send us plenty of sea-ware for enriching our ground for the ensuing year"; and so threw the cup of ale into the sea. This was performed in the night time. At his return to land they all went to church, where there was a candle burning upon the altar; and then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a signal, at which the candle was put out, and immediately all of them went to the fields, where they fell a-drinking their ale, and spent the remainder of the night in dancing and singing, &c.

The next morning they all returned home, being well satisfied that they had punctually observed this solemn anniversary, which they believed to be a powerful means to procure a plentiful crop. Mr. Daniel and Mr. Kenneth Morison, ministers in Lewis, told me they spent several years before they could persuade the vulgar natives to abandon this ridiculous piece of superstition; which is quite abolished for these 32 years past.

The museum at the Comunn Eachdraidh in Ness has a stone cross connected with St Ronan and a stone reputed to have come from Iona.

What else?

After seeing the chapel, head one mile further north to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse. It was built by the Stevenson family who were responsible for building lighthouses in some of the most treacherous seas in the British Isles.

Find out more about the history of Ness at the Comunn Eachdraidh Nis website.

 

Getting there

Head north from Stornoway on the A857 as far as the village of Lional in Ness. Take a left turn onto the B8013 towards Eoropie. Just before you reach the houses in Eoropie, turn right and then turn left. You will see the chapel behind the houses on your right. A grassy path leads up beside a house to the chapel.

The path can be wet under foot so it’s a good idea to wear waterproof footwear.


 
   
  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.1 St Columba's Church

    This late 14th century church - named after St Columba - was later extended in the 15th and 16th century.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.2 St Moluag's Chapel

    This restored chapel is dedicated to St Moluag or Moluoc. The building is flanked by two small side chapels to the north and south, creating a T-shaped outline.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.3 St. John's Chapel

    Head west from the crofting township of Bragar to find the medieval chapel of Teampull Eoin - St John The Baptist - on a small headland next to the beach.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.4 Uig Peninsula

    It is worth heading to the Uig Peninsula not only for the sites relating to early Christianity but also for the stunning beaches of Uig and Mangarstadh.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.5 Teampall Chaluim Chille, Eilean Chaluim Chille

    The small island of Eilean Chaluim Chille has probably been connected with Christianity since the 7th century. It sits on the eastern extremity of Loch Erisort as it leads out to the Minch.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.6 Northton Chapel

    Northton Chapel faces south across the Sound of Harris looking towards the Uists. It sits on a small headland - Rubh’ an Teampull - at the foot of Ceapabhal hill.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.7 St Clements

    This is the largest medieval church in the Outer Hebrides. Of all the churches in the islands, only Iona is larger. It was built in the 16th century but there is some suggestion that there may have been an older monastery on the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.8 Church of the Holy Trinity

    Teampull na Trianaid sits on a mound beside the village of Carinish. There are views west towards the low-lying island of Baleshare. The remains of the Teampull na Trianaid dominate the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.9 Chapel of the Virgin Mary

    The ruined medieval chapel sits in a graveyard which is still in use. The chapel was rectangular and would have had a pitched roof. The walls would have been much higher - you can see the top part of the door in the west wall.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.10 Howmore

    The township of Tobha Mor - or Howmore - lies between the main north-south road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    9.11 Kilbar Church, Barra

    Cill Bharra is the remains of a 12th century church dedicated to St Barr. The site is thought to have been used for Christian worship since the 600s when there was a chapel here dedicated to St Barr - probably the same saint as St Finbarr of Cork.