Thursday, February 12, 2015

Teampull Easaigh - Ensay Chapel

Ensay chapel, also known as Christ Church, is an interesting little building. What you see today mostly originated in the 16th century, but bits of it are thought to date to the 11th century.

Christ Church - Isle of Ensay
The chapel, which is dedicated to St Columba, sits in a beautiful site above a small beach on the sheltered east side of Ensay. Also standing here are Ensay House, which dates to the 18th century, and a standing stone which can just be seen atop the knoll at the right side of the next photo.

From left to right - Ensay House, chapel, and standing stone (atop the knoll at right)
The Ensay Stone
When I visited Ensay the first thing I went to see was the little church. Its massive oak door was locked, and so I went over to Ensay House and asked if I could get the key. They invited me in, and I waited in the kitchen while they searched for it. With the key happily in hand I returned to the church. But even after unlocking the door I could not get it to open. The base of the door was swollen, and it did not want to budge. I gently pushed for a few minutes, and was about to give up when it finally opened.

The stubborn door - finally opened
The inside of the church was beautiful. The chapel had been misused as a barn at some point, but was restored in 1910. That restoration is commemorated in a stone plaque mounted above the door (you can just see the bottom of the plaque in the previous photo). According to a another plaque mounted on one of the inside walls another restoration occurred in 1971 (next photo).

Plaque for 1971 restoration
On the floor was something quite interesting, a stone piscina.

In 1931 the chapel was bequeathed to the Episcopal Bishop of Argyll and the Islands on the condition that at least two services be held each year. I do not know if they've kept that up, but there is a service held here every June - near St Columba's Day, which is June 9 - by members of Harris Christ Church, which lies off the A859, four miles south of Tarbert. See this Scottish Episcopal Church page and this Isle Of Harris Page for more on the beautiful little church of Ensay.

The altar

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