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Texa, Texa Chapel

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross (Period Unassigned), Libation Container

Site Name Texa, Texa Chapel

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Cross (Period Unassigned), Libation Container

Alternative Name(s) Bagh Na H-eaglaise

Canmore ID 37614

Site Number NR34SE 2

NGR NR 39096 43833

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kildalton And Oa
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR34SE 2 39096 43833

(NR 3909 4383) Chapel (NR)

(In Ruins) Burial Ground (NR)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1900)

The remains of the Chapel of the Virgin Mary (Lamont 1972), measuring 29 1/2ft by 13ft within walls 2 1/2ft thick. The door is in the south wall and there are window openings in the north and south walls. Most of the dressed stone has been removed. A building 17ft square over walls 2 3/4ft to 3 3/4ft thick lies contiguous to the south west corner of the chapel. Its entrance is in the west wall. To the east of the chapel is a mound, probably the site of a cross.

Easson (1957) dimisses as "no doubt apocryphal" assertions that there was "a cell of monks" (J de Fordoun 1759) here, but Lamont suggests, from the fact that the lands of Kilbride (NR 38 46) were associated with it, that the chapel was an early foundation dedicated to St Bride.

A small metal container, possibly a "lachrymatory", similar to but not identical with others found on early Irish ecclesiastical sites, was found 50yds from the rim about 1880, and was in the possession of Mrs I Ramsay, Port Charlotte in July 1958.

Sculptured stones from the burial ground date from the 14th to the 16th centuries and are now either at Ardimersy (NR 43 46) or in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS). Archdeacon Munro in 1549 mentions the chapel as if it were still in use OPS 1854).

J de Fordoun 1759; OPS 1854; A Mitchell 1881; R C Graham 1895; D E Easson 1957; F Celoria 1959; W D Lamont 1972

The roofless chapel, as described, is 9m by 4.5m internally. The gable end survive and the north south walls are 2.5m high.

The enclosure wall is 0.5m high and the adjacent enclosure to the south may be a burial ground.

The mound, lying on high ground beside the chapel is 2m square and 0.4m high; its purpose is not evident.

The sculptured stone taken to Ardimersay is now in Islay Museum (information from Mr C G Booth, Islay Museum).

Surveyed at 1:10000.

Visited by OS (MJF) 14 June 1978

The ruin of this late medieval chapel stands at the edge of a raised terrace some 60m S of the boat-landing at Bagh na h-Eaglaise ('bay of the church'). The chapel appears to have formed the centre of an area of continuous agricultural

settlement, represented by extensive remains of rig-cultivation. Immediately to the S of the burial-ground are the

footings of at least five buildings and an ovoid enclosure, while another structure is situated some 18m to the N. None

of these remains appears to be of early date, except for the enclosure in which the chapel itself stands. Its boundary-wall is supported on the N by the revetted edge of the natural terrace, and now appears as a stony mound about 1m thick and standing in places to a height of about 1m, enclosing an area 28m from E to W by 19m transversely. Within the E angle of the enclosure a small rock outcrop rises to a height of about 1.8m above the general level, and is crowned by a platform of rubble masonry 0.5m high and 1.9m square. It is probable that this formed the base for the late medieval cross-shaft described below (see number 1). A burial-enclosure, built close to the w wall of the chapel and measuring 3.5m square within 0.8m walls which have a well-formed coping, is probably of 19th-century date.

The chapel is of simple unicameral plan, measuring 8.8m from E to W by 4.1m transversely within walls 0.8m thick. It

was lit by splayed windows near the E ends of the side-walls, and entered by a doorway towards the W end of the S wall. This latter opening preserves the internal quoins of its E ingo, formed of fine-grained white sandstone and incorporating a draw-bar slot; the jambs were wrought with a 0.12m chamfer terminating in a broach stop. The opening is so ruinous that the form of the door-head is uncertain, but it was probably flat-lintelled. The external dressings of the windows, which have been robbed, were probably also of sandstone, and their surrounds appear to have been rectangular, whereas the embrasures were built of rubble and flat-lintelled. The masonry, including the quoins, is of local rubble bonded in coarse shelly lime-mortar, and incorporates some very large boulders set on edge in random fashion. A prominent horizontal joint in the E gable at about wall-head level probably marks a seasonal break during building-operations.

The island of Texa was tentatively identified by Skene with Oidecha insula, which Adomnan mentions as a stopping-

place on St Cainnech's voyage from lona to Ireland in the 6th century, and some, but not all, later scholars have accepted this identification. (Skene; Watson 1926; Bannerman 1974) There is, however, no evidence of ecclesiastical occupation of the island during the Early Christian period. Early 16th-century Crown rentals show that the medieval chapel was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and that it was generously endowed with the lands of Cragabus and 'two Kilbrides', as well as the island ofTexa.(Exch Rolls 1508-13; 1537-442; Islay Book)

The presence of a cross-shaft (number 1) erected in the late 14th century by Reginald, son of John of Islay, who like his father is described in Gaelic sources as a generous benefactor of the church, (Clanranald Bk) may indicate the period at which the chapel itself was built. The chapel was not mentioned by the Irish Franciscan missionary Cornelius Ward, who in 1625 found that twenty-three of the inhabitants of Texa were already Catholics, and converted the remaining six; (Giblin, It is possible that those identified as already Catholics has been convereted during the visit to Islay in 1624 of Father patrick Hegarty) it was presumably already ruinous.

Funerary Monuments and Cross.

The following medieval monuments were removed from the area of the chapel to the grounds of Kildalton House in 1880 and 1882, and numbers 1, 2 and 4 were transferred in 1923 to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. An additional fragment of number 2 was identified in 1981 in the burial-enclosure W of the chapel, and is now also in the National Museum. Number 3 is now at the Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte.

(1) Part of the shaft of a free-standing cross, 1.02m in height and tapering from 0.33m by 75mm at the base. The

upper part is damaged at the edges and, especially on the back, much of the carved surface has flaked off. On the front, within a triple-moulded border, there has been carved in relief the figure of the Crucified Saviour, but only the outline of the shaft of the rood survives, flanked by plant-stems. Below this there is an inscription in Lombardic capitals (infra), and then the figure of a man wearing bascinet, aventail and aketon, holding in his right hand a battle-axe (Steer and Bannerman 1977; Caldwell 1981) and resting his left hand on a large sword with lobated pommel and slightly inclined quillons, which is suspended from a waist-belt. On the back, within a similar border, there are, in descending order, the remains offoliaceous ornament, a stag attacked by two hounds, and a galley with spread sail containing two men. The inscription on the front reads:


'This is the cross of Reginald, son of John, of Islay'.

Reginald, son of John I, Lord of the Isles, by his first marriage, was the progenitor of Clan Ranald, and probably

died shortly after his father in 1387 or 1388. The cross, which was presumably erected during his lifetime, appears to be the work of a carver independent of the main schools active at that period. (Kildalton Antiquities Catalogue, no.4; Graham 1895). 14th century.

(2) Lower part of a rectangular slab, 0.91m in surviving length by 0.50m in width, damaged at the bottom right

corner. The recently discovered fragment, which measures 0.61m by 0.21m, probably belonged to the upper part of the left margin. Within a broad inscribed margin defined by bead-mouldings and having a rosette at the only surviving

corner, there is carved in low relief the figure of a priest standing in a cusped round-headed niche with foliated

spandrels.6* He wears Eucharistic vestments and holds a chalice. In a separate panel above there are remains of

foliaceous ornament, possibly a foliated cross. The surviving part of the marginal black-letter inscription reads:




'... John, son of John MacAlister, parson of. . . Maurice MacKay, vicar of the same ?church'.

The limited space available for the name of the parish of which John MacAlister was parson suggests that it may have

been Gigha. (Steer and Bannerman 1977; Kildalton Antiquities Catalogue, no.6; Graham 1895). c. 1500-1560.

(3) Lower part of a tapered slab, 0.84m in surviving length. It has been carved in false relief with a figure, but

much of the surface has sheared off so that only the legs survive. The lower 0.3m of the slab has been only roughly

tooled, and it was probably made locally. (Kildalton Antiquities Catalogue, no.9). 14th-early 16th century.

(4) Two fragments of a cross-base which in 1882 were pieced together to support the cross number 1. They were

separated after their arrival at the National Museum in 1923, and only one, the left side of the socket-slab, can be identified at present. It is of local epidiorite, and measures 0.56m by 0.27m by 90mm in thickness, the left and bottom edges being roughly tooled and bevelled. In the lower part there is a hooded female figure with hands crossed on her breast, but the rest of the surface of the fragment has flaked off. A corresponding figure on the missing fragment appears to have been shown in three-quarter view, with the right arm raised. Although it has been assumed that the figures are those of the Virgin and St John attendant upon the Crucifixion, their poses are more appropriate to the

Annunciation. The truncation of the lower parts of the figures (and apparently also the right edge of the missing

figure) by the bevelled edges of the slab supports Richardson's suggestion that this was a secondary use," but it

is unlikely that the carving was part of an unfinished cross-head, which would have been of exceptional size. An original use as an altar-frontal or the side of a tomb-chest seems more probable, and the Annunciation would have been an appropriate subject in a chapel dedicated to the Virgin. (Kildalton Antiquities Catalogue, no. 5; Graham 1895; PSAS, Donations 1923); Richardson 1927). 14th-early 16th century

RCAHMS 1984, visited June 1981.

NR 390 438 (area) Container for holy oil (chrismatory), copper alloy, c 11th century AD, found c 1880 around 46m from the late 14th-century chapel (within an earlier enclosure) and cemetery on the island of Texa. The item had been in the Ramsay family of Islay since 1880, but in 2000 it was donated to the national collections. The item was given a Treasure Trove no-claim certificate (TTNC 1999/02) and acquired by NMS in January 2001.

A Sheridan 2001a.


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