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Historic Scotland

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History

Kilmory Knap Chapel is a typically simple rectangular Highland church. It was  built in the 1200s and is listed as a dependency of the parish church of Knapdale at Keills in the 1300s. 

There was probably an earlier church on this site. Seven early Christian cross-marked stones were found here, probably used as grave markers. It is likely the churchyard around the chapel has a long history of burial. 

The majority of the collection are late medieval West Highland grave-slabs. Many of these commemorate members of the MacMillan clan, who were most closely associated with Knapdale in the Middle Ages.  

West Highland grave-slabs 

The West Highland grave-slabs here date to between the 1300s and 1500s. They represent an art style that flourished in late-medieval Scotland, appearing on tapestry, wood, metal and stone. 

Among the grave slabs are five effigies at Kilmory Knap, including: 

  • two warriors  in armour and armed with spears and broadswords 
  • two clerics depicted in prayer and wearing vestments 
  • possibly a fashionably dressed nobleman 

The grave-slabs feature a range of motifs, including swords, crosses, galleys, animals, monsters, combs and mirrors and tools of trade. Of particular interest are the stones which are inscribed with the names of individuals belonging to families of craftsmen, suggesting that these individuals were of high status.  

The standout piece 

MacMillan’s Cross, dating to the 1400s, is the most distinctive monument at Kilmory Knap. It was erected for Alexander MacMillan, the keeper of nearby Castle Sween for the Lords of the Isles.  

The disc-headed cross stands almost 3m high and splendidly decorated, depicting: 

  • an unsheathed sword flanked by interlace on one face 
  • a hunting scene in which three hounds attack a stag while a huntsman approaches on the other face 
  • the crucified Christ, flanked by St John and the Virgin Mary on one side of the cross-head 
  • a small leaping animal biting its own tail at the centre of the other side of the cross-head 

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