The Macmillan Cross
The day had turned grey and a damp Scottish mist had descended as we drove down the Knapdale Peninsular in Argyll. The peninsular extends like a finger into the Atlantic point towards Ireland. We knew there was an old Chapel to be found at the point and sure enough there it was Kilmory Knap Chapel…..looking all the world like many other Highland Chapels roofless and partly ruined.
The big surprise was to be found inside. This Christian Chapel dates back to 13c, but as the area has a religious history that pre dates that, in some place going back to neo lithic times, this Chapel was possibly built on an earlier religious site. It stopped becoming a place of worship when it fell into disrepair and lost its roof. After that it became a place of Burial Enclosure….and that is the clue as you step inside the ruin.
Thankfully some forward thinking individuals had the inspiration to install an inverted glass roof to protect the body of the Chapel and an important collection of over 30 carved Burial Stones and standing in place of honour is the carved Celtic Macmillan Cross of the Knapdale Macmillan Clan.
The Stones were found either within the Chapel or the surrounding grounds. The stones are carved in a variety of styles, some obviously carved with Celtic influences others ornate carvings of familiar images whilst others are more symbolic. Historians suggested that these memorial stones were created to represents the individuals wealth within their community with some of the stones having been commissioned on the Island of Iona and transport to Kilmory.
There are helpful notes in the Chapel to help you interpret the history of each stone. This is a large collection of Burial stones, but carved stones like these, whilst not common are not unfamiliar to the Knapdale and Kilmartin region of Argyll. Click the link to read more about Kilmartin and its stones :- https://davidoakesimages.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/wordless-wednesday-another-favourite-place-74/
Not all burials in this graveyard are of the wealthy and some simpler crosses have been recovered…
Kilmory Chapel may well be a bleak and lonely location but it is far from being an empty shell.
(C) David Oakes 2017