Harris, Rodel, St Clement's Church

© Copyright and database right 2014. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100020548.

Alternative Names Rodel, St Clement's Church And Churchyard; Tur Chliamainn
Site Type BURIAL GROUND, CHURCH
Canmore ID 10521
Site Number NG08SW 7
NGR NG 04773 83184
Council WESTERN ISLES
Parish HARRIS
Former Region WESTERN ISLES ISLANDS AREA
Former District WESTERN ISLES
Former County INVERNESS-SHIRE
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Treasured Places - HLF funded

St Clement's is considered to be one of the most outstanding church buildings in the Hebrides, the earliest section dating from the 13th century. The church is remarkable for possessing one of the most ambitious and richly-carved tombs of the period in Scotland, that of Alexander Macleod (known in Gaelic as Alasdair Crotach) said to have been the church's founder.

By choosing to be buried in Harris, Alexander Macleod was breaking with tradition, as the previous chiefs of his clan had until then been buried in Iona. The tomb is dated 1528 and its high-quality carved mural panels depict biblical stories, a stylised castle, a hunting scene and a Highland galley.

Images from the 1930s shows the galley carving intact, although it was subsequently damaged in the mid-20th century. The church is now under the Guardianship of Historic Scotland.

Information from RCAHMS (PJG) 6 June 2007

An image of this site has been nominated as one of Scotland's favourite archive images. For more information about the project visit http://www.treasuredplaces.org.uk

Recording Your Heritage Online

St. Clement's, 1520s The finest pre-Reformation church in the Western Isles, best known for its astonishingly well preserved funerary monuments. This magnificent group of canopied wall tombs represents the flowering of late medieval carving in the Hebrides.

The church was built, probably in several phases, by Alasdair Crotach (humpbacked) Macleod, 8th Chief of the Macleods of Harris and Dunvegan, who broke with tradition in choosing to spend his final years in Harris and to be buried here. Abandoned after the Reformation, it was ruinous by 1705, repaired twice (owing to an intervening fire) by Capt. Alexander Macleod in the 1780s - the enlarged, square-headed windows and crenellated tower parapet are of this period - but by 1841 was again dilapidated. Alexander Ross restored it for the Dowager Countess of Dunmore in 1873 (the timber arch-braced roof and oak door are his), and further repairs were made in 1913 by W. T. Oldrieve, who stripped off the harling. The church is cruciform in plan, with a continuous nave and aisle, unaligned transepts, and a four-storey tower rising from higher rocky ground at the west end. The pinned rubble is of local gneiss, combined with dressings of greenish Carsaig sandstone and ornamental details in black schist, for polychrome effect. The east end is lit by a traceried late gothic window with three cusped lights and a wheel window, above; other windows are trefoiled lancets. A cabled string course works its way round the tower¿s midrift and round a sculpted panel on each face: on the north, a black bull's head (the Macleod crest); above the door on the west a bishop, probably St. Clement, in a canopied niche supported by another bull's head; on the south wall a shiela na gig fertility symbol, and on the east a panel depicting fishermen in boat. Other carved panels inset in the Irish manner (and possibly earlier than the church) include a kilted figure, formerly mounted on the medieval parapet. Alasdair Crotach's magnificent table tomb, made in 1528, two decades before his death, lies in an arched recess in the south wall of the chancel. Its richly carved mural panels fuse gothic and celtic motifs. Nine voussoirs frame the tomb, with the Trinity at the centre, flanked by figures of the apostles and angels. Inside the recess, three rows of panels carved with religious and secular subjects surround the central figures of the Virgin and Child. The other notable tomb, with a triangular pediment in the nave's south wall, is probably that of Alasdair Crotach's son, William, 9th Chief, who died in 1551 (although the fire damaged inscription probably reads 1539). Other memorials include a cruder effigy at the nave's north end, probably commemorating John Macleod of Minginish (d. c.1557), a series of 15th and early 16th century carved slabs formerly over tombs in the sanctuary, and one dated 1725. Born at Rodel, the poetess Mary Macleod (Mairi Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh, c.1615-1707) is buried in the south transept. In the graveyard, burial place of several Macleod chiefs and poets, some 18th century Caibeals (small burial enclosures/chapels).


Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk


Architectural Notes

EXTERNAL REFERENCE:

National Library of Scotland.
The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, contains
'Uncatalogued [-] of General Hutton; and numbered 46, 47 and 50 etc.,
Vol. 1. a Plan of Rowadill Monastery or Priory, dated 1818, to the scale of
ten feet to an inch; a pencil drawing of a Monument and its
inscription by Will. Daniell, 1818. There is also a Drawing of
Church communicated by the Rev. Mr. Macleod, dated March, 1790.

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Archaeological Notes

NG08SW 7.00 04773 83184

(NG 0475 8318) St Clement's Church (NR).
OS 6" map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1903).

NG08SW 7.01 NG 04757 83177 Sheela-na-gig

St. Clement's is considered to be the most outstanding church building in the Hebrides (A A MacGregor 1949). Muir tentatively suggests a 13th century date (T S Muir 1885) for the original, oblong, single apartment building, which was enlarged in the late 15th or early 16th century (A A MacGregor 1949) The dedication is possibly to Clement, Bishop of Dunblane (E. 13th century). Restorations apparently took place in the years 1784, 1787 and 1873 (A A MacGregor 1946). Easson sees no reason to regard this as other than a parish church, despite allegations that it was once a monastic foundation (D E Easson 1957). The interior of the church is remarkable for possessing one of the finest tombs in Scotland (16th century), in addition to carved slabs and a disc-headed cross (RCAHMS 1928). A brass chalice-shaped cup was found in the churchyard.
T S Muir 1885; A Ross 1885; D Murray 1897; RCAHMS 1928; A A MacGregor 1946; A A MacGregor 1947; D E Easson 1957.

St Clement's Church, as described and illustrated, and now under guardianship.
Visited by OS (N K B), 4 July 1969.


 REFERENCE

Notes St. Clement's is considered to be the most outstanding church building in the Hebrides (A A MacGregor 1949). Muir tentatively suggests a 13th century date (T S Muir 1885) for the original, oblong, single apartment building, which was enlarged in the late 15th or early 16th century (A A MacGregor 1949) The dedication is possibly to Clement, Bishop of Dunblane (E. 13th century). Restorations apparently took place in the years 1784, 1787 and 1873 (A A MacGregor 1946). Easson sees no reason to regard this as other than a parish church, despite allegations that it was once a monastic foundation (D E Easson 1957). The interior of the church is remarkable for possessing one of the finest tombs in Scotland (16th century), in addition to carved slabs and a disc-headed cross (RCAHMS 1928). A brass chalice-shaped cup was found in the churchyard.
RCAHMS 1928; T S Muir 1885; A Ross 1885; A A MacGregor 1946 and 1947; D E Easson 1957; D Murray 1897.

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 WIC PROJECT

Notes This project indicates that the record to which it is linked is within, or near the boundary, of an area managed by a SURE partner.
Information from RCAHMS (SH) 24th January 2014

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 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

Notes An undated photographic survey.

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 FIELD VISIT

Notes Photographs taken by HBM/SDD during a field visit. The photographs are undated.

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 EXTERNAL REFERENCE

Notes National Library of Scotland.
The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, contains
'Uncatalogued [-] of General Hutton; and numbered 46, 47 and 50 etc.,
Vol. 1. a Plan of Rowadill Monastery or Priory, dated 1818, to the scale of
ten feet to an inch; a pencil drawing of a Monument and its
inscription by Will. Daniell, 1818. There is also a Drawing of
Church communicated by the Rev. Mr. Macleod, dated March, 1790.

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1885 to 1886
 MEASURED SURVEY

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1900
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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1920 to 1930
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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1923
 MEASURED SURVEY

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22 August 1927
 FIELD VISIT

Notes Photographs were taken during a field visit by Ian G Lindsay.

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1962
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

Notes Photographic survey undertaken by either RCAHMS or HM Office of Works.

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1962
 MEASURED SURVEY

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May 1966
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

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1968
 PHOTOGRAPHIC SURVEY

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4 July 1969
 FIELD VISIT

Notes St Clement's Church, as described and illustrated, and now under guardianship.

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1978
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

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28 September 2004
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2004 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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23 April 2005
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2006 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

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16 February 2010 to 18 February 2010
 WATCHING BRIEF

Notes NG 0477 8318
A watching brief was undertaken 16–18 February during excavations to investigate a broken drain Structure 1 at Horgabost, taken from the E during excavation. Volunteers at work at Baile Sear on the W side of the church. The N-facing section of a cut for the rubble filled drain at the E end of the S wall of the
nave contained small fragments of bone; possibly evidence of disturbed human remains, but probably animal bone in redeposited midden material. A basic photographic record was made of the tomb of Alexander Macleod, which had
been threatened by water damage prior to the repair to the drain.
Archive: RCAHMS (intended)
Funder: Historic Scotland
A Hollinrake 2010

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Books and References

Breeze, D J (2002) People and places: the men, women and places that made Scottish history, Edinburgh
Page(s): 44-5 Held at RCAHMS C.3.5.BRE

Burgess, C (2008) Ancient Lewis and Harris: exploring the archaeology of the Outer Hebrides,
Held at RCAHMS D.14.2.LEW

Cowan and Easson, I B and D E (1976) Medieval religious houses in Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man, London
Page(s): 85 Held at RCAHMS C.3.2.EAS.R

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Charity SC026749