Ui Church Past


3 land

1 - The Earliest Church



Bracelet"According to tradition, the church was built on the site of a cell occupied by St Catan, who is believed to have lived in t he sixth or seventh century."

These words were written in 1919 by W.C. Mackenzie. Catan was an early Irish churchman, who became bishop of Bute, and chapels dedicated to him can be found throughout Kintyre, and some of the Hebrides, in Perthshire, and as far as Beauly. The Clan Chattan, whose principles members are the Macintoshes and the Macphersons, took its name from  'clan of the servant of St Catan'. According to Mackenzie, there was also a shrine of St Catan at Maelista in Uig.


Colum Cille

Colum CilleThe present church of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe (the church on the isthmus) is dedicated to St Columba, or Colum Cille, which means 'Dove of the Church'. Colum Cille was born of royal blood in Ireland around AD 520. Many colourful traditions abound about his early life, but he came to Dalriada in Scotland in the 560s, founding the great monastery of Iona and playing a crucial part in the Conversion to Christianity of the peoples of Scotland. He became a figure equivalent to St Patrick in Ireland and St David in Wales.

Colum Cille himself never travelled to Lewis, but many other devotees spread Christian teachings far and wide among the local populations. Perhaps of particular significance for the Outer Hebrides was Abbot Maelrubha of Applecross. The cult of Colum Cille remained strong in Scotland centuries after his death, and many churches built in the later Middle Ages, including Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, were dedicated to this pre-eminent saint.



Small, early stone chapels of this period still survive on the remote off-shore islands of Rona and the Flannans. Footings of an early medieval chapel can be seen 3.75Km to the south-east at on Rubha an Teampuill, and Bayble (Pabail) takes its name from an unknown early church father. 


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