Monday, 30 July 2012

St Moluag’s

This is St Moluag’s Church (Teamphull Mor) at Eoropie (Eoropaidh) on the Isle of Lewis. 

Saint Moluag, (c.530 - 592) (also known as Lua, Luan, Luanus, Lugaidh, Moloag, Molluog, Molua, Murlach), was a Scottish missionary, and a contemporary of Saint Columba, who evangelized the Picts of Scotland in the sixth century.   The present church is said to date from the 12th century but the site is believed to have been consecrated since the 6th century.  One story suggests it was St Ronan who founded the church before travelling back to the Isle of Rona on the back of  a whale.

For some centuries it was dedicated to St Maelrubha who was regarded as a healer and this church was one of the four places of pilgrimage in Scotland for both healing insanity and wounds and sores.

Because it was so remote the sufferer from wounds and sores could send instead a wooden limb with an indication of where the wound was.  A visitor to the church in 1610 saw these lying on the altar.

The insane had to visit in person. Their treatment involved being given water from the nearby St Ronan’s well; led seven times sunwise around the building; laid, bound hand and foot, before the altar with their head resting on the stone pillow of the saint; and not allowed up until the next morning.  I suspect a number must have acted sane for fear of there being worse to come!  If, upon recovery, they were still insane they were declared incurable.   The expression ‘take you to the temple’ as a threat to anyone behaving foolishly was still in use as recently as 1912.

There can’t be that many churches in the UK (in which services are still regularly held) which do not have electricity and are lit by oil lamps and candles.

The modern stained glass window in the East is not actually a window at all but a panel suspended before the window.  

 The thread of St Moulag and St Rona follows through both this and the altar hangings and curtains which were all commissioned at the same time. 

 This old alms box is still in use and has a Flemish padlock 

The church is cruciform with the main body of the building having a sacristy at the North-east and a small (in fact minute) chapel to the North-west. 

The sacristy door is only four foot six high so the clergy had to approach the altar in a humble crouch - the mitred Bishop having to do so on hands and knees.

The chapel is only connected to the church by a small squint. The door into it from the outside is tiny.

As GB pointed out to me, there can’t be many Chapels this small.  The altar was put in in 1912 during a restoration and a stone puplit of similar freestone was put in the church at the same time. Fortunately it was not only considered too large and modern but it also caused damp in the adjacent wall so it was removed in 1998 and the church is now more as it was originally.

It's well worth a visit next time you happen to be passing on your way to...     

Well, it's  worth a visit.

I think GB is planning a post on St Moluag's some time so watch out for more about it and some different shots of the church over on Eagleton Notes.  (And, if he doesn't, his blog is always worth a visit any way...)


  1. Wow! I imagine there are no churches that old here in the USA. So, this church is still being used? It is beautiful. I love the education I'm getting from Blogland.

  2. Beautiful! I love churches. I definitely think they are a triumph of our better instincts over our violent animal natures. Thanks for sharing this special place with us. xoxoxo

  3. I can feel the inside of that place all the way over here in New York.

  4. Great textures here........a wonderful building. I assume it is never locked up.

  5. Early Christians were certainly a rugged lot!...and I guess anyone who still attends service here is just as rugged. It is certainly a beautiful church and one I'd love to see. I just don't know when I'll be passing through....

  6. I don't quite understand the bit about "The thread of St Moulag and St Rona follows through both this and the altar hangings and curtains", but I like the unusual blue curtains, I don't think I have ever seen anything like it in a church.
    The building itself looks tiny from the outside, but on the inside, the main body of the church is surprisingly high.

    1. 'Thread' as in the sense of 'theme' - the various items having pictures and concepts connected with the two saints. Hope that helps.

    2. Oh! Yes, thank you, that helps :-) Somehow I saw the blue "thread" around the stained glass window and the blue curtains and assumed it had something to do with the threads as in textile.

  7. Excellent pics, especially of such a dark interior. Very enjoyable.

  8. I think there's always something special about a place that has been used for worship for centuries, maybe even over a thousand years... I probably wouldn't have guessed from afar that it was a church though - if I had happened to just be passing. (Which, I conclude from your map, is not very likely... Very funny!)


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