Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Fraser's Scottish Annual
Druid Temple in Lewis

THIS is one of the most remarkable Druid remains in the United Kingdom next to Stonehenge and Abury. The form is that of a cross, containing, at the intersection, a circle, with a central stone, an additional line being superadded on one side of the longest arms, and nearly parallel to it. Were this line absent, its form and proportion would be nearly that of the Roman cross, or common crucifix. The longest line of this cross, which may be considered as the general bearing of the work, lies in a direction twenty-four degrees west of the meridian. The total length of this line is, at present, 588 feet, but there are stones to be found, in the same direction, for upwards of ninety feet further, which have, apparently, been a continuation of it, but which, having fallen, like others, through different parts of the building, have sometimes been overwhelmed with vegetation, leaving blanks that impair its present continuity. The whole length may, therefore, with little hesitation, be taken at 700 feet. The cross line, intersecting that now described at right angles, measures 204 feet, but as it is longer on one side than the other, its true measure is, probably, also greater, although no fallen stones are to be seen at the extremities, the progress of cultivation having here interfered with the integrity of the work. The diameter of the circle which occupies the centre of the cross is sixty- three feet, the lines ceasing where they meet the circumference. The stone which marks the centre is twelve feet in height. The heights of the other stones which are used in the construction are various, but they rarely reach beyond four feet; a few of seven or eight feet are to be found, and one reaching to thirteen is seen near the extremity of the long line. The additional line already mentioned extends northwards from the outer part of the circle, on the eastern side. It is, however, very defective, a great number of the stones being absent towards its northern extremity, although there is apparent evidence of their former continuity in one which remains erect, and in others which have fallen from their places. There are no traces of a line parallel to this on the western side, but as some inclosures have been made in the immediate vicinity, it is possible that such might have originally existed.

Notwithstanding the superstitious reverence with which the Scots in general regard these remains, and the care with which, in their agricultural operations, they commonly avoid committing any injury to them, the intervals between the stones vary from two to ten feet or more, but it is probable that the larger spaces have resulted from the falling of the less firmly- rooted pillars which occupied those places. The number of stones in the circle is thirteen, independently of the central one, and the number in the whole building, either erect or recently fallen, is forty-seven. The aspect of this work is very striking, as it occupies the highest station, on a gentle swelling eminence of moor-land, there being no object, not even a rock or stone, to divert the attention and diminish the impression which it makes. The circles found in the vicinity are less perfect, and present no linear appendages; their average diameter varies from forty to fifty feet, and one of them contains four upright stones, placed in a quadrangular form with its area.

To this general account may be added, that solitary stones, apparently of a monumental nature, are found in this neighbourhood, as well as in the island of Bernera, and other parts of Lewis. The cruciform shape of the structure described above is a remarkable and, perhaps, a solitary circumstance. It has not, at least, been noticed among the numerous descriptions of these erections which antiquaries have given to the public. It is true that in some of the cromlechs, or smaller monuments, a disposition of the stones, resembling that of a cross, has sometimes been remarked, but it seems, in all these cases, to have been the result either of accident or necessity. No monument in which that form is obviously intended has been traced higher than the period of the introduction of Christianity, nor was it, indeed, till a later age, that of Constantine, that the cross became a general object of veneration. From that time its use is common, and it is frequently applied, under a great variety of structures and forms, to numerous objects, civil and military, as well as ecclesiastical. Those cases in which the figure of the cross has been found marked, or carved on' stones of higher antiquity, which had served either for the purposes of sepulchral memorials or Druidical worship, appear to have resulted from the attempts of the early Catholics to convert the supposed monuments of ancient superstition to their own ends, either from economical motives, or from feelings of a religious nature. But such attempts cannot be supposed to have given rise to the peculiar figure of the structure here described. The whole is too consistent, and too much of ore age, to admit of such a supposition, while, at the same time, it could not, under any circumstances, have been applicable to Christian worship. Its essential part, the circular area, and the number of similar structures found in the vicinity, equally bespeak its origin. It must, therefore, be concluded that the cruciform shape was given by the original contrivers of the fabric, and it will afford an object of speculation to antiquaries, who, if they are sometimes accused of heaping additional obscurity on the records of antiquity, must also be allowed the frequent merit of eliciting light from darkness. J. M.

Return to Book Contents Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus