Eilean Fhianain, St Finnan's Chapel

Chapel, Bell (early Medieval)

Site Name Eilean Fhianain, St Finnan's Chapel

Classification Chapel, Bell (early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Loch Shiel, St. Finan's Chapel; St Finnan's Church

Canmore ID 22686

Site Number NM76NE 1

NGR NM 75204 68276

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Arisaig And Moidart
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Chapel, c.1500 Believed to have been built to replace a wooden structure by Allan MacRuari, 4th Chief of Clanranald, "the dread and terror of all neighbouring clans". Abandoned 17th century, since when all dressings have been robbed. The rubble walls still enclose a stone altar slab, with a seamless bronze bell of Early Christian type (possibly 10th century), a small cross in a niche, plus various important graveslabs, including one much weathered example of the Iona School, c. late 15th century, depicting a sword and foliage scrolls. Among the many monuments scattering Eilean Fhianain in the shelter of hawthorn, larch and Scots pine are several late medieval graveslabs and a group of weathered cruciform stones, probably 18th century.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk


External Reference


National Library, Country Life 26 December 1941 - photograph

Desk Based Assessment

NM76NE 1.00 75204 68276

NM76NE 1.01 Centred NM 75224 68301 Burial-ground

(NM 7520 6827) St. Finnan's Church (NR) (Remains of)

Burying Ground (NAT)

OS 6" map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1901).

Little is known of the early history of the chapel of Eilean Fhianain. It is perhaps built on the site of a cell which St. Finan had upon the island in the 7th century and the builder is believed to have been Alan MacRuaridh, one of the early Clan Ranald chiefs. The island was the burying place of the Clan Ranalds until the end of the 16th century.

The chapel became a ruin by the mid-17th century. The altar, however, remains, and on it stands a 6" high D.A. bell.

A circular brass brooch found in the burial ground was donated to the NMAS in 1896.

Information from OS.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1896; M E M Donaldson 1923; W J Watson 1926; S Gordon 1935.

Contour Survey (1992)

A contour survey of Eilean Fhianain was undertaken after the clearing of the thick scrub that has obscured the island in recent years. In consultation with Dorothy Low of Highland Regional Council a number of gravestones, crosses, the chapel and other monuments were mapped.

Sponsor: Highland Regional Council

CFA 1992.

Field Visit (3 June 1970)

St. Finan's Chapel (locally accepted name) is oriented E-W and measures 21.0m by 5.6m within a wall which is 0.9m thick and c. 2.8m maximum height. In the N wall are the lower halves of four windows, and near the E end is a square-headed aumbry. In the W wall is the lower part of a window and in the S wall the lower part of three windows, and towards its W end a doorway. The altar and bell remain intact at the E end.

The interior has been used for burials.

Visited by OS (R L) 3 June 1970.


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