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Eilean Fhianain Cross No. 1

Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Site Name Eilean Fhianain Cross No. 1

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval)

Canmore ID 319525

Site Number NM76NE 1.02

NGR NM 75206 68336

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

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


Reference (2001)

This island, which takes its name from one of the saints bearing the Irish name Finan (a), is situated about 200m from both the N and S banks of Loch Shiel. It measures about 200m from N to S by 180m and has steep sides rising to an undulating summit-area which has been extensively used for burials by the adjacent Protestant and Roman Catholic communities of Sunart and Moidart respectively (b). The ruined medieval church near the W edge of the summit contains a cast bronze bell of Early Christian type (c), as well as a graveslab and cross-head, both of late medieval date. A female effigy of the same period lies near the N end of the summit, close to a group of large simple cruciform stones which are probably of 18th-century date (d). A cross-marked gravemarker (no.1) stands in the same area, and a small cruciform stone of uncertain period (no.2) was recorded in 1974 but has since disappeared (e).

(1) [NM76NE 1.02] Tapered slab of local flagstone, 0.7m in visible height by 0.35m at the head and 55mm thick. On the E face there is incised a Latin cross, 0.17m high and 0.14m across the arms, set on a pedestal formed by a slightly curved horizontal bar 100mm long and two vertical bars 70mm high.

(2) [NM76NE 1.03] Cruciform stone with tapered shaft and side-arms, about 0.52m high by 0.22m across the arms. At the centre of one face there is an incised Latin cross, 48mm high and 20mm in span.


(a) W J Watson 1926, 285-6.

(b) The monuments in the S part include an early 18th-century slab with skeleton, bearing the initials D MD. These cast doubt on its traditional identification as the grave of the Rev Alexander MacDonald ('Maighstir Alasdair', d.1724), father of the celebrated Gaelic poet of the same name (C Macdonald 1997, 123).

(c) C Bourke 1984, 464-8, citing Irish parallels of c.900. See idem 1997, Columba, 175-6, for the drop of a 12th-century crosier, found on the N shore of Loch Shiel near the island and now displayed in the Museum of Scotland (H.1993.634).

(d) For the tradition that the crosses were quarried by Donald Mor MacVarish, see A Cameron 1957. One of these is illustrated in T S Muir 1885, 77.

(e) The Commissioners are indebted to Mr I Thornber for depositing photographs, on which the drawing is based, in the NMRS (IN/1802-3).

I Fisher 2001.


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