St Clement, Harris
The church of St Clement can be found at the end of a long and narrow road in the small village of Rodel on the beautiful Isle of Harris. Rodel was once the historic capital of the island and, if the church seems familiar, that may be due in part to it being featured heavily in the BBCs Call the Midwife 2019 Christmas special, Babies It’s Cold Outside.
Built on the site of an earlier church, St Clement was founded in around 1520 by Alexander MacLeod of Dunvegan and Harris and is executed in local gneiss rock. MacLeod was the 8th chief of his clan, and due to an injury sustained in the Battle of Bloody Bay, he is said to have had a notably hunched back. When MacLeod died in 1528, he was laid to rest in an ornately decorated tomb on the south side of the choir. Above his reclining effigy, sporting full armour, spans an exquisitely carved arch that includes depictions of stags, St Clement holding a skull and a fine birlinn boat.
Within the church are two further tombs, the first of which is located in the south wall of the nave and belongs to Alexander Macleod’s son, William, 8th chief of the clan who died in 1539. The second lies in the south transcript and is believed to be that of the 10th clan chief, John MacLeod of Minginish, and dates from 1557.
After the Reformation the church fell into disuse, although members of the MacLeod family continued to be buried in the churchyard. Restorations of the church took place in both the late 18th and 19th centuries, and then again in 1913 to repair the tower after it had been struck by lightning. The building is now owned and maintained by Historic Environment Scotland and nearby are some charming public conveniences which include their very own visitor book!