St Moluag, Lewis

St Moluag, or Teampull Mholuaidh as it known in Gaelic, is reached from the road by a long, narrow path between two neighbouring fields. It’s so long and straight, in fact, that it resembles the kind of vanishing point road you see in movies. Its exact construction date is unknown, but the current T-shaped building is believed to have replaced the original 560s structure, somewhere between 1100 and 1500. 

By the 1800s, the church had been left to ruin. But it was carefully restored in 1912 and has been in regular use ever since. Despite this, the building still does not have an electricity or water supply. With very small windows, the only other source of light is from numerous oil lanterns and candles - I can only imagine how atmospheric it must be in the depths of winter.

To the south of the chancel is a small chapel that can only be accessed from outside and which has a hagioscope (altar squint) in its north wall. This opening allowed worshipers in the side chapel to see the high alter of the main church and therefore also the elevation of the host. On the north side of the chancel is a door to a second small chapel.

Saint Moluag is the patron saint of Argyll. It is said he was once in a race with his rival, Saint Columba, to be the first to reach the Isle of Lismore, on Loch Linnhe, where they each wished to founder a monastery. The legend goes that Saint Columba soon took the lead but, not to be defeated, Saint Moluag cut off his own finger and threw it onto the shore, therefore claiming the isle as his own.

1.St Moluag, Lewis
2. St Moluag, Lewis
3. St Moluag, Lewis
4. St Moluag, Lewis
5. Altar detail
6. St Moluag, Lewis
7. St Moluag, Lewis
8. St Moluag, Lewis
9. St Moluag, Lewis
10. St Moluag, Lewis
11. Chair detail
12. View through altar squint
13. St Moluag, Lewis
14. Side chapel altar
15. St Moluag, Lewis
16. Side chapel detail
17. St Moluag, Lewis