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Historic Scotland unveils dramatic new interpretation at the “Island of the Saints”

31 July 2012

Island of the Saints

The stories that make the history of Eileach an Naoimh so fascinating have been brought to life following an expert consultation to create new interpretation at this evocative island site – the best-preserved early Christian monastery in Scotland.

A colourful illustration reconstructing the earliest dwellings has been installed on the remote island, following months of painstaking research by Historic Scotland.

Eileach an Naoimh, “Rock of the Saints”, is located between the islands of Scarba and Mull off Mid Argyll. The site, which may date to about 542, includes the remains of a monastery believed to have been founded by St Brendan the Navigator.

The existing remains include a church, chapel, graveyards, a remarkable double beehive cell, a possible underground ritual “purgatory” and a complex of domestic buildings, although it is uncertain how many of these buildings belong to the early Christian period. Human bones and a skull were found at the site in 1859, when one of the buildings was rebuilt as a sheepfold.

For the new interpretation, Historic Scotland created a photo-realistic aerial image of the site as it may have appeared in the 7th century, showing a boat approaching a natural harbour below the settlement. From here, a set of steps leads up past two enclosures to main residential area, where an outer wall encloses a collection of beehive cells, with an inner enclosure protecting a chapel. The visual representation also shows several cells outside the main enclosures.

Eileach an Naoimh has not been excavated. The illustration is based on the surviving remains and expert advice, drawing on better known early Christian monasteries in Ireland.

Interpretation Officer at Historic Scotland, Steve Farrar explained: “The new panel offers a surprising amount of detail. Artist Bob Marshall has created a visually stunning and historically accurate representation, based on detailed research.

“The panels link Eileach an Naoimh to St Brendan the Navigator, whose remarkable adventures culminated in the founding of the monastery.”

His arrival is recorded in verse form in the “Life of Brendan” : So Brendan sailed over the wave-voice of the strong-maned sea, and over the storm of the green-sided waves, and over the mouths of the marvellous, awful, bitter ocean… and found beautiful, marvellous islands.

Steve said: “Interpretation lies at the heart of Historic Scotland’s mission to present our built heritage effectively and imaginatively to visitors. The research that has gone into this new panel gives an added dimension to one of the Argyll’s most important historic locations.”


ALBA AOSMHOR A’ CUR MÌNEACHADH ÙR AIR EILEACH AN NAOIMH

Chaidh na sgeulachdan inntinneach mu Eileach an Naoimh an toirt beò as dèidh do luchd-eòlais co-chomhairleachadh gus mìneachadh ùr a chruthachadh air an eilean àlainn seo – am manachainn Chriosdail tràth as fheàrr a ghlèidheadh ann an Alba.

As dèidh mhiosan de rannsachadh aig Alba Aosmhor, chaidh dealbh dathte a dhèanamh, a' sealltainn mar a bha na togalaichean as sine. Tha an dealbh a-nis stèidhichte air an eilean iomallach seo.

Tha Eileach an Naoimh suidhichte eadar Muile agus Scarpa ann an Earra-Ghaidheal. 'S e manachainn a th' anns an làrach seo a tha 's dòcha a' dol air ais gu 542, agus chaidh a stèìdheachadh leis an Naomh Bhriannan.

An luib na tobhtaichean tha eaglais, caibeal, cladh, uamh-sheòmar dùbailte, togalaichean fon talamh, agus grunn thaighean àbhaisteach. Chan eil e follaiseach cia mheud dhiubh seo a bhuineas dhan àm Chriosdail thrath. Chaidh cnaimhean duine agus claigeann a lorg ann an 1859 nuair a chaidh buaile a dhèanamh de thogalach.

Tha Alba Aosmhor air ìomhaigh coltach ri dealbh-camara a chruthachadh, a' sealltainn an làrach mar a thathar an dùil a bha e coltach anns an 7mh linn. Chithear bàta a' tighinn a-steach gu cala, le staidhrichean a' dol suas seachad air dà bhuaile dhan àite-fuirich. An seo, tha uamh-sheòmraichean am broinn balla a-muigh, agus caibeal am broinn balla a-staigh.

Cha deach Eileach an Naoimh a chladhach le arc-eòlaichean. Tha an dealbh stèidhichte air na tha air fhàgail air an làrach agus comhairle bho eòlaichean, a' dèanamh coimeas le làraichean ann an Èireann.

Thuirt Oifigear Mìneachaidh Alba Aosmhor, Steve Farrar: "Tha e iongantach cho mionaideach sa tha na panailean ùr. Chruthaich an neach-ealain Bob Marshall ìomhaigh rìomach a tha a' riochdachadh an fhiosrachaidh eachdraidheil bhon rannsachadh.

"Tha na panailean a' dèanamh ceangal eadar Eileach an Naoimh agus an Naomh Bhriannan, a thòisich a mhanachainn as dèidh taisdealach annasach."

Tha bàrdachd mun turas ann am 'Beatha Bhriannan' a chaidh eadar-theangachadh dhan Bheurla:
So Brendan sailed over the wave-voice of the strong-maned sea, and over the storm of the green-sided waves, and over the mouths of the marvellous, awful, bitter ocean… and found beautiful, marvellous islands.

Thuirt Steve: " Tha mìneachadh aig teas-mheadhan amas Alba Aosmhor gus an dualchas togte againn a thabhann do luchd-tadhail. Tha an rannsachadh a chaidh a dhèanamh airson nam panailean ùr tha seo a' toirt taobh eile gu aon de na làraichean as cudromaiche ann an Earra-Ghàidheal.”

Image caption

The new photo-realistic image of Eileach an Naoimh, created for Historic Scotland by Bob Marshall.

An ìomhaigh ùr de dh’Eileach an Naoimh, air a chruthachadh do dh’Alba Aosmhor le Bob Marshall.

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with ensuring that our historic environment provides a strong foundation for a successful future for Scotland. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • To register for media release email alerts from www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/news. If you wish to unsubscribe at any time, please email hs.website@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

  • The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at: www.visitscotland.com/creative

  • The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at  www.visitscotland.org/yearofcreativescotland-toolkit

                                                       Year of Creative Scotland 2012


For further information


David Gray
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8588 or 07854 366 805
david.gray@scotland.gsi.gov.uk