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Skye, Raasay, St Maol-luag's Chapel

Burial Ground (Medieval), Chapel (Medieval)

Site Name Skye, Raasay, St Maol-luag's Chapel

Classification Burial Ground (Medieval), Chapel (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) St Moluag's Chapel

Canmore ID 11466

Site Number NG53NW 1

NGR NG 54832 36635

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Portree
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Kilmoluag graveyard A walled enclosure with three roofless structures and a number of grave slabs, one with fragments of medieval sculpture. Former parish church, early 13 th century, the rubbly ruin of a medieval church on a religious site founded c.560-90 and dedicated to St. Moluag. It has a good round-arched splayed window in the east gable and a late medieval arched tomb recess on the inside south wall. By 1773, when Raasay was part of Skye's Snizort parish, it was 'unroofed and ruinous' and used for burials. Memorial chapel, 1839, in memory of a Macleod daughter, possibly replacing the 'family burying-place' visited by Johnson and Boswell in 1773. This ashlar-faced Gothick chapel stands on a sloping site, underbuilt by five courses of rock-faced masonry, in the fashion of Edinburgh's New Town. Just visible is a tiny, lichen-blurred female mask reset on the inside apex of the east gable. Boswell saw it on the earlier building - a 'small bust or image of the Virgin Mary, carved upon a stone which makes part of the wall'. Burial lair to west, possibly 11 th century, with bevelled door lintel.

[The boundaries of Kilmoluag's burial sanctuary were once marked out by carved stone crosses, one of which has now been relocated to the roadside, just west of the mansion.]

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2007. Published by the Rutland Press


Field Visit (24 March 1926)

St Maol-luag's Chapel, Raasay.

The ruins of this chapel are situated at an elevation of 100 feet above sea-level in a small burial ground about 100 yards north-east of Raasay House. Both gables and the larger portion of the south wall remain to their original height, but the north wall is now considerably broken down. The ruin has a number of interesting features, details of which are to some extent obscured by obvious changes of ground level, both in the internal and external surroundings. The chapel is roofless and has been orientated north-west and south-east, and it measures externally 52 feet long, 24½ feet wide at the north-west gable and 21 feet wide at the south-east gable. The walls are 3 feet thick, and there is evidence, especially on the south wall, of structural alterations at different periods. The original door, 2 feet 8 inches wide, with chamfered jambs and lintel, was placed 16½ feet from the west ·end of the south wall, but owing to the configuration of the ground it now shows only to a height of 3 feet 4 inches, and it appears to have been built up and substituted by another doorway, traces of which can still be detected_in the dilapidated wall on the north. Immediately above the original doorway an entrance to a gallery, probably reached by an outside wooden stair, has been inserted, but this entrance has also been subsequently built up and the interior of the chapel afterwards roughly plastered. On the same wall, but towards the east end, there are a round-headed window, splayed internally, and indications of a second window of like construction in a dilapidated portion adjoining the eastern gable. A similar window 3 feet 5 inches in height and 10½ inches wide occurs on the south-east gable, and this window is chamfered on the outside and splayed internally. There has apparently been another window in the east end of the north wall, but little remains to give any idea of its character. The western gable has been lit by three apertures, one of which is not now apparent externally. The two others are of lancet form, with the heads cut out of one stone. These lancet windows are chamfered on the outside and all three are splayed internally. The western gable is intaken 10 inches to 1 foot at 10½ feet above the present interior level, and remaining joist holes indicate that there was a gallery at this end. Similar joist holes in the north and south walls at 9 feet from the east gable possibly indicate provision for a screen. Midway in the interior between the two south wall windows the upper portion of a tomb recess shows to a height of 2 feet above the existing internal level.

CROSS-SLAB IN BURIAL GROUND. Lying loose at the foot of a grave in the burial ground is a small cross-slab of red sandstone measuring 15½ by 6¼ by 1¼ inches. It bears on the rounded and somewhat mutilated upper portion the design, in low relief, of a cross-head with semicircular hollow angles and arms of equal length connected at their extremities by a ring or glory.

See Hist. Note, No. 616.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 24 March 1926.

OS map: Skye xxxv.

Desk Based Assessment (1960)

NG53NW 1 54832 36635.

NG 5483 3663. St. Maol-luang's Chapel (NR) (In ruins).

OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1904)

St. Maol-luag's Chapel, Raasay, a church dependent on Lismore in Loan, the central community of St. Moluag, (A B Scott 1918) is described by Johnson as a chapel unroofed and ruinous. Its precincts were of old a sanctuary, which was marked by 8 erect stones or crosses mentioned by Martin as pyramids for deceased ladies, (NG53NW 4) some of which were remaining in 1773 (OPS 1854; M Martin 1934).

The ruins of the 13th century chapel (D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7) are situated within a small burial ground. Both gables and the larger portion of the S wall remain to their original height, but the N wall is now considerably broken down. There are a number of interesting features, details of which are obscured by obvious changes of ground level both internally and externally. The chapel is roofless, orientated NW-SE, and measures externally 52ft long, 24 1/2ft wide at the NW gable and 2ft at the SE gable. The walls are 3ft thick and there is evidence, especially in the S wall, of structual alterations at different periods. The original door was placed 16 1/2ft from the W end of the S wall, but it appears to have been built up and substituted by another doorway, traces of which can still be detected in the dilapidated N wall. There are windows in the E end of the W wall and N Wall, and the W gable. The W gable is intaken 10ins - 1ft at 10 1/2ft above the present interior level, and remaining joist-holes indicate that there was a gallery at this end. Similar joist-holes in the N and S walls near the E gable possibly indicate provision for a screen. There is a tomb recess in the S wall. There is a decorated cross-slab in the burial ground. (W D Simpson 1935).

Information from OS.

(D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7; Orig Paroch Scot 1854; A B Scott 1918; RCAHMS 1928; M Martin 1934; W D Simpson 1935).

Field Visit (12 June 1961)

St. Maol-luag's Chapel as described above. On the S side of the chapel is a small detached 19th century family burial vault of the Macleods of Raasay.

The burial ground is still used for the descendants of those interred there.

Visited by OS (A S P) 12 June 1961.

Field Visit (22 September 1971)

The decorated cross-slab mentioned by RCAHMS could not be found, otherwise no change.

Visited by OS (R L) 22 September 1971.

Field Visit (2005)

A survey of the graveyard of this site was carried out by The Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists (ACFA) in 2005. A total of 91 stones were recorded and measured, including those of the MacLeod family, which were contained within a small mausoleum to the S of the chapel remains. The graveyard measures 46m x 29m and is bounded by a stone wall surmounted by an iron railing. Within are three ruinous structures, all aligned E-W. The largest is the chapel, which is 16m x 7.5m. The early Victorian MacLeod Chapel or mausoleum is 6.5m x 3.5m. Finally, there is the small mausoleum known as the Lady Chapel, which is 4m x 3m. In addition there are 5 other enclosures in the graveyard that contain memorial stones.

The chapel is dedicated to St Moluag, a missionary saint from Bangor, Ulster. The chapel is mentioned in 1501 but is clearly older than this. It is believed that the settlement was founded by monks from Lismore or direct from Bangor in AD 569. Although the surrounding graveyard is quite small, local tradition believes it has been more extensive in the past.

J S Wood, J Macdonald 2005

Field Visit (2006)

NG 5486 3664

As part of ACFA's continuing survey of the Isle of Raasay the remains of the 13th-century chapel were surveyed and recorded. The different style and construction of the window opening on the W wall from those at the E of the building were noted and it is suggested that the W end is a second, later stage of development and that the orignal eastern part could be of an arlier date than previously thought.

An inventory was made of the stones and the markers surrounding the chapel and the other structures in the graveyards were recorded. The Lady Chapel (Macleod Mausoleum) adjacent to the S wall of the chapel, previously thought to date from 1839, was found to have been described by James Boswell in 1773 during his visit to Raasay with Dr Johnson.

Other stones and monuments on Raasay were surveyed and also recorded:

NG 5532 3543 the Rasaay War Memorial

NG 5503 3700 German Stone

NG 5466 3676 Pictish stone

NG 5457 3630 Pictish carving

NG 5475 3675 Kit's Stone

NG 5454 3638 and NG 5480 3675 medieval cross bases

Reports lodged with drawings and photographs have been lodged with NMRS and Highland Council.

Sponsor: Glasgow Archaeological Society and CBA Challenge Funding

JS Wood and J Macdonald 2006


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