Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chapel of St Triduana - Papa Westray

Old pilgrimage sites have always interested me. One of the most interesting is the Chapel of St Triduana (aka St Tredwell) on the island of Papa Westray. So when I was set ashore on Papa Westray a couple weeks ago, the first thing I set out to see was the chapel ruin. 

From the Bay of Moclett at the south end of the island, I walked a mile up the east coast to the Bay of Burland. From there I turned west to cross a large, grassy field, to reach the Loch of St Tredwell. 

The Chapel of St Triduana on its once fortified islet
The chapel lies on a mound in the loch that was once an island. There was a broch tower there some 2000 years ago, and the chapel was built in the 12th century from stones taken from the broch. A narrow neck of land now connects the mound to the shore, and after walking across it I found the chapel ruin half obscured under a thick growth of grass and nettles. 

A pilgrimage to the chapel, along with walking around the loch and washing your eyes in its water, were said to cure blindness. Here's an extract of the history of St Triduana from the Catholic Online page:

According to the 16th-century Aberdeen Breviary, Triduana was born in the Greek city of Colosse, and travelled from Constantinople with Saint Rule, who brought the bones of Saint Andrew to Scotland in the 4th century AD. A pious woman, she settled at Rescobie near Forfar in Angus, but her beauty attracted the attentions of a King of the Picts named Nectan. To stall these unwanted attentions, Triduana tore out her own eyes and gave them to Nechtan. Afterwards, she was associated with curing eye disorders. She spent her later years in Restalrig, Lothian, and healed the blind who came to her. She was buried at Restalrig when she died.

As described on the Orkneyjar website, the chapel was one of Orkney's most visited pilgrimage sites for centuries, and I wonder how many desperate people over the years managed to make their way to this remote spot. These days I don't think many people visit, as I had it all to myself. My mother would be undergoing cataract surgery in a couple of weeks, and as I sat in the chapel ruin I prayed to St Triduana that it go well. It did.

What's left of the chapel of St Triduana

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