Kildalton Cross

The parish of Kildalton, of which the church was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, forms the south-east side of the island of Islay. The original church of the parish stood at Kildalton, a few miles south-west from the entrance to the sound of Islay, where its cemetery, walls, altar, and font still remain.

The large cross in these plates stands in a stone base in the burying-ground, on the north side of the ruined church. It differs entirely in form from all the other crosses on the west coast, and also in style of ornamentation from all except that called Martin’s Cross at Iona and the cross at Keils, which it greatly resembles in many of its details, but is richer than either of them. It partakes very much of the character of the Irish crosses — especially in the length of the arms and in the circle which connects them with the stem; and in outline and some details it may be compared with the south cross at Clonmacnoise. The disengaged circle, which is so common on the Irish crosses, occurs only on two of the Scotch ones — viz., the present example, and Martin’s Cross just referred to. It has been elsewhere remarked that on the cross slabs on the east coast this circle appears as if in embryo on the slab, preparatory to the monument being shaped into the form of a cross with the circle cut into a free ornamented band.

Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVI, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

On the east side of the cross the figure of the Blessed Virgin and Holy Child, with a male figure on either side, is cut, and at the extremities of the arms of the cross are groups of figures apparently of ecclesiastics. This cross is, in my opinion, of a style greatly earlier than the class of monuments represented by that at Campbelton, and comes much nearer in character to the Irish examples, which are ascribed to the tenth and eleventh centuries.

The smaller cross, of which the shaft is unsculptured, stands on the outside of the churchyard.

Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.
Kildalton Cross, Plate XXXVII, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Vol. 2, 1856.

On the hill of Dun Borreraig are the ruins of a circular hill-fort 52 feet in diameter inside, with walls 12 feet thick, a gallery within the walls, and a stone bench 2 feet high round the area. Near the bay of Knock are two large upright flags called “The Two Stones of Islay.” Monumental stones, as well as cairns and harrows, occur, and stone and brass [bronze] hatchet-shaped weapons or celts, elfshots, or flint arrow-heads, and brass fibulae, have been frequently dug up.

I Do Not Compare the Disciple with the Master

Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).
Engraving of the ruins of Iona Abbey from Archaeologia Scotica, Volume I, Edinburgh (1792).

Baithen was a man of tender soul, of whom we would fain speak at greater length, if it were not needful to circumscribe the wide and confused records of Celtic hagiography. Columba compared him to St John the Evangelist; he said that his beloved disciple resembled him who was the beloved disciple of Christ, by his exquisite purity, his penetrating simplicity, and his love of perfection. And Columba was not alone in doing justice to the man who, after having been his chief lieutenant in his work, was to become his first successor. One day, in an assembly of learned monks, probably held in Ireland, Fintan, a very learned and very wise man, and also one of the twelve companions of Columba’s exile, was questioned upon the qualities of Baithen. “Know,” he answered, “that there is no one on this side of the Alps who is equal to him in knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the greatness of his learning.” “What!” said his questioners — “not even his master, Columba?” “I do not compare the disciple with the master,” answered Fintan. “Columba is not to be compared with philosophers and learned men, but with patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. The Holy Ghost reigns in him; he has been chosen by God for the good of all. He is a sage among all sages, a king among kings, an anchorite with anchorites, a monk of monks; and in order to bring himself to the level even of laymen, he knows how to be poor of heart among the poor; thanks to the apostolic charity which inspires him, he can rejoice with the joyful, and weep with the unfortunate. And amid all the gifts which God’s generosity has lavished on him, the true humility of Christ is so royally rooted in his soul, that it seems to have been born with him.” It is added that all the learned hearers assented unanimously to this enthusiastic eulogium. Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).

Fertill, Fruitfull, and Full of Natural Grassing

Kildalton Cross, a monolithic high cross in Celtic cross form, in the churchyard of the former parish church of Kildalton (from Scottish Gaelic Cill Daltain, "Church of the Foster Son" (i.e. St John the Evangelist)) on the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
Kildalton Cross, a monolithic high cross in Celtic cross form, in the churchyard of the former parish church of Kildalton (from Scottish Gaelic Cill Daltain, “Church of the Foster Son” (i.e. St John the Evangelist)) on the island of Islay.

Nar this forsaid iyle on the west syde of it layes Ila, ane ile of twentie myle lenthe from the north to the south, and sixteen myle in breadth from the eist to the west, fertill, fruitfull, and full of natural grassing, with maney grate Diere, maney woods, faire games of hunting beside everey toune, with ane watter callit Laxay, wherupon maney salmon are slaine, with ane salt water Loch, callit Lochegunord, quherin runs the water of Gyinord, with high sandey bankes, upon the quhilk bankes upon the sea lyes infinit Selccheis, whilkis are slayne with doges learnt to the same effect. In Ila is meikle lead ure in Moychills. In this iyle there is ane guid raid for schipps, callit in Erische Polmoir, and in English the Mechell-puill, this layes at ane toune callit Lanlay Vanych, ane uther raid layes within Ellan Grynard, callit in English the isle at the poynt of the nesse, the raid is callit Leodannis. Within this iyle ther is sundrie-freshe water Lochis, sic as Lochmoyburge wherin ther layes ane iyle perteining to the Bishopes of the Isles. The loch of Ellan Charrin, quherin ther is ane iyle pertyning to M’Gillane of Doward. Loch Cherossa with ane iyle perteining to the Abbot of Colmkill. In this iyle there is strenths castells, the first is callit Dunowaik the biggest on ane Craig at the sea side, on the southeist pairt of the countery pertaining to the Clandonald of Kintyre; second is callit the castle of Lochgurne, quhilk is biggit in ane iyle within the said fresche water Loche far fra land, pertaining of auld to the Clandonald of Kintyre, now usurped be M’Gillayne of Doward. Ellan Forlagan in the midle of Ila, ane faire iyle in fresche water.

— Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, called Hybrides; by Mr Donald Monro High Dean of the Isles who travelled through the most of them in the year 1549.

Now I Know of a Surety

The Liberation of St Peter, 1616-18, by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656); oil on canvas, 129 x 179 cm; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
The Liberation of St Peter, 1616-18, by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656); oil on canvas, 129 x 179 cm; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

About that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

— Acts xii. 1., The Epistle for the Feast of St. Peter from the Book of Common Prayer.

Failt, a Mhoire!

Detail of Our Lady from the Ghent Altarpiece, a very large and complex early 15th century Early Flemish polyptych panel painting.
Detail of Our Lady from the Ghent Altarpiece, a very large and complex early XV century Early Flemish polyptych panel painting.

Hail, Mary! hail, Mary!
Queen of grace, Mother of mercy;
Hail, Mary, in manner surpassing,
Fount of our health, source of our joy.

To thee we, night and day,
Erring children of Adam and Eve,
Lift our voice in supplication,
In groans and grief and tears.

Bestow upon us, thou Root of gladness,
Since thou art the cup of generous graces,
The faith of John, and Peter, and Paul,
With the wings of Ariel on the heights of the clouds.

Vouchsafe to us, thou golden branch,
A mansion in the Realm of peace,
Rest from the perils and stress of waves,
Beneath the shade of the fruit of thy womb, Jesu.

– Carmina Gadelica, Achaine, 47.

* * *

Failt, a Mhoire! failt, a Mhoire!
Righinn nan gras, Mathair na trocair;
Failt, a Mhoire, air mhodh gun choimeas,
Geil ar slainte, fath ar solais.

Riut tha sinne, dh’ oidhch’s a latha,
Sliochd seachranach Adhamh is Eubha,
Togail ar guth’s ag achan,
An gul’s an gal’s an deura.

Tabhair duinn, a Fhreimh an aigh,
O ‘s tu copan nan grasa fial,
Creid Eoin, is Pheaid, is Phail,
Le sgeith Airil an aird nan nial.

Deoin dhuinn, a gheug dhonn,
Aros ann am Fonn na sith,
Tamh o ghabhadh’s o anradh thom,
Fo sgath toraidh do bhronn, Ios.

– Carmina Gadelica, Achaine, 47.

Folio 291 Verso

Folio 291 verso from the Book of Kells; St. John the Evangelist.