Islay - Religion

Religion

Associated with various Islay churches are cupstones of uncertain age; these can be seen at Kilchoman Church, where the carved cross there is erected on one, and at Kilchiaran Church on the Rhinns. In historic times some may have been associated with pre-Christian wishing ceremonies or neo-pagan beliefs in the "wee folk".

The early pioneers of Christianity in Dál Riata were Columba of Iona and Moluag of Lismore. The legacy of this period includes the 8th century Kildalton Cross, Islay's "most famous treasure", carved out of local epidiorite. A carved cross of similar age, but much more heavily weathered can be found at Kilnave, which may have served as a site of lay worship. Although the first Norse settlers were pagan, Islay has a substantial number of sites of drystone or clay-mortared chapels with small burial grounds from the later Norse era. In the 12th century the island became part of the Diocese of Sodor and the Isles, which was re-established by King Olaf Godredsson. The diocese fell within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Nidaros and there were four principal churches on Islay in the Norwegian prestegjeld model: Kilnaughton, Kildalton, Kilarrow and Kilmany. In 1472 Islay became part of the Archdiocese of St Andrews.

Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll was a strong supporter of the Reformation, but there is little evidence that his beliefs were greeted with much enthusiasm by the islanders initially. At first there were only two reformed churches but in 1642 three parishes were created, based at Kilchoman, Kilarrow and a new church at Dunyvaig. By the end of the century there were seven churches including one on Nave Island. Kilarrow Parish Church is round, as local folklore has it, to leave no corner for the devil to hide in. This "architectural gem" was constructed in 1767 by Daniel Campbell, the laird of Islay. The kirk on the Rhinns of Islay is St Kiaran's, located just outside the village of Port Charlotte and Port Ellen is served by St John's. There are a variety of other Church of Scotland churches and various other congregations on the island. Baptists meet in Port Ellen and in Bowmore, the Scottish Episcopal Church of St. Columba is located in Bridgend and the Islay Roman Catholic congregation also uses St. Columba's for its services.

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