9.7 St Clements, Rodel, Isle of Harris

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. The church was restored in 1873 by Catherine Herbert, Countess of Dunmore.

St Clement was the patron saint of sailors but there are only a few churches dedicated to him in this part of Scotland.

St Clement’s is well-known for the detailed stone carved tomb of Alexander MacLeod, 8th Chief of Harris and Dunvegan (in Skye), who built the church. The arched tomb was made in 1528 before his death some time between 1545 and 1547.

St Clements Rodel © Steve Branley

Until 1495, Lords of the Isles had been buried in Iona. Now each clan chief needed to build a tomb on his own land. The clergymen who lived here may have been employed to pray for MacLeod’s soul.

Alexander MacLeod’s tomb is carved with images from the Bible and from his lifetime - the apostles; angels; Christ on the cross; bishops; a hunting scene of a knight and two stags; a birlinn - sailing galley; and a castle (probably Dunvegan). A carved effigy of Alexander in armour lies below.

There are also a number of carved graveslabs, stone carvings and a late medieval cross which sits in the window opposite the entrance.

St Clements has a tower at the west end which can be climbed via a dark stone staircase. The upper levels are reached by ladder.

There are a number of stone carvings on the outside of the tower including this image of a man wearing an early kilt - fèileadh mòr - the big kilt. This was a bigger piece of cloth which covered the whole body rather today’s waist-down version.

Rodel carving © Alan Sroull
 

Getting there

Rodel is on the most southeasterly tip of the Isle of Harris.

Leaving Northton, drive east on the A859 past the township of Leverburgh.Rodel is about 3 miles along this road and the church is easy to spot on the right.


 
   
  • 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.