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Tiree, Soroby, Old Parish Church

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Monastery (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Site Name Tiree, Soroby, Old Parish Church

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Monastery (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Cladh Sorobaidh

Canmore ID 21465

Site Number NL94SE 6

NGR NL 983 416

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Tiree
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NL94SE 6.00 9838 4163

NL94SE 6.01 9839 4164 Maclean's Cross

NL94SE 6.02 983 416 Cross-shafts; Cross-slabs

(NL 9838 4163) Cladh Sorobaidh (NAT)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

Old Parish Church (Site) and Burial-ground, Soroby: This church is said to have occupied a site near the NW corner of what is now a walled burial-ground at Soroby, but the last traces of the structure were evidently removed during the first half of the 19th century (W Reeves 1854). The only visible surface-remains comprise a number of architectural fragments which survive in re-use as burial-markers and are distributed mainly in the N half of the cemetery. Some are identifiable as window-rybats, and may be ascribed to the 13th century. The church served the medieval parish of Soroby; it was dedicated to St Columba. It is probable that this was the 'church of St Columba of Tiree' that was annexed by Ardchattan Priory before then end of the 13th century and confirmed in the possession of that house in 1380. By 1421, however, the church of St Columba of Soroby had been appropriated by Iona Abbey, with which it remained until the Reformation. The deanery of the Isles was attached to the parish in 1615, and three years later the parish of Soroby was united with those of Kirkapoll and Coll to form a single parish of Coll and Tiree. Soroby was described as the parish church in the late 17th century, and may have retained that status until a new parish church was built on Tiree in 1776.

It has been suggested (W Reeves 1854) that this site can possibly be identified as that of the Columban monastery of Campus Lunge (NL94SE 20).

(See also NL94SE 6.1 - 6.2.)

RCAHMS 1980, visited 1974; W Reeves 1854; J Sands 1882;E Beveridge 1903; I B Cowan 1967; New Statsitical Account (NSA Rev N MacLean) 1845; M Martin 1934.


Field Visit (28 June 1972)

No trace of this church was seen.

Visited by OS (R D) 28 June 1972.

External Reference (February 1997)

The monument consists of a burial ground containing an Early Christian cross-slab, the shaft of an early-16th century cross, and the remains of a medieval church. The existence here of the Early Christian cross-slab suggests that this may have been an early ecclesiastical, probably monastic site.

The Early Christian cross-slab stands in the E side of the burial ground within what appears to be its original socket stone. It measures 1.27m high by 0.8m in maximum width by 0.25m in thickness (excluding the boss on the front). It bears a cross in bold relief on each face, the arms of that on the E face projecting so that the stone itself is cruciform. The cross on the E face is of Latin form, with the edges defined by a cable moulding and a large boss in the centre. On the upper arm are depicted three serpents and there are traces of a key pattern on the left arm. The incised foliaceous scrolls on the shaft appear to be a later addition. The background of the slab is also ornamented and the edge bears a cable moulding. The cross on the E side of the stone is ring-headed, and does not reach to the edges of the slab. Once again, it is defined, and the edges of the slab are ornamented by, cable moulding, and the head and shaft of the cross are ornamented. On the top of the upper arm of the cross is a low projection, possibly imitating the small house or shrine frequently carved on the tops of Irish high crosses.

On the W side of the burial ground (8m from the W wall of the enclosure) lies a cross-shaft with an inscription stating that it was erected by Anna, Prioress of Iona - without doubt Anna MacLean, Prioress from before 1509 until 1543. The shaft is 1.9m long and tapers in width from 0.32m to 0.23m. It is broken in 2 places and is now partly buried so that only the front is visible. The front bears 2 niches, the upper showing St Michael slaying the dragon and the lower showing a female figure - possibly representing the Prioress - attended by Death, shown as a cadaver. The rear of the shaft bears a plant scroll. Other Early Christian and late medieval carved stones are to be found in the burial ground, one grave slab lying immediately to the N of Prioress Anna MacLean's cross.

In the NW corner of the burial ground, low mounds representing the foundations of the church can be distinguished. The N and S walls are the most distinct, and it appears to have measured 14m E-W by 8m N-S and to lie approximately 9m from the W wall and 8m from the N wall of the burial ground. A number of architectural fragments of 13th-century character survive, re-used as burial markers. The church served the medieval parish of Soroby, the parish of the W half of Tiree until the union of Coll and Tiree parishes in 1618. The church is recorded in the 13th century, and it seems to have remained in use until at least the late 17th century.

It has been suggested that the site can possibly be identified as that of the Columban monastery of Campus Lunge, and the existence of the Early Christian carved stones here do suggest that this was an early and important ecclesiastical site. This may have had some connection with the probable Early Christian monastic site at St Patrick's Chapel, 5km away.

The Early Christian cross, erroneously named as MacLean's Cross, was scheduled in 1934, and the present scheduling corrects the naming error and extends protection to the surrounding burial ground and the remains within it as described above.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated February 1997.


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