A relic according to the Oxford Dictionary is ’an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest’. There are several surviving church buildings that fit that category. There is Saint Patrick’s Temple which is situated on the Balephuil Bay side of Kenavara. The remains are of a medieval building that is thought to have replaced an earlier less substantial chapel. There is no historical evidence for Patrick ever having visited the Isle of Tiree. The most likely explanation is that an Irish Missionary, Congall, a contemporary of Columba, dedicated the chapel to Patrick.
Kilkenneth Chapel is another example of a relic. The ruins probably date from the late Middle Ages. Kenneth was a colleague of Columba and so it thought the present chapel may have replaced an earlier less substantial building on the site. Coffins and human remains have in the past been exposed when the sand which forms the dunes has been shifted by storms.
The Kirkapol Chapels are situated at Kirkapol looking out onto Gott Bay. Both names, Kirkapol and Gott, are of norse origin, the former meaning, ‘Church Town’ or ‘Church Farmstead’. The remains of the church buildings date from the 13th and the late 14th Century. Although historically Soroby has been regarded as the site of the monastery founded by Columba, it is possible that it was actually at Kirkapol.
Pilgrims still visit these historical sites, but significantly the Church on Tiree is not a relic but a powerful witness to their living Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Although often misunderstood, the church is not a building made of dead stones, or wood, but a building made of ‘living stones’ – men and women, young people who acknowledge Jesus as Lord (God) and whose lives have been and are being transformed by Jesus Christ.
On the island there are ruins of church buildings used by previous generations. For example there is the Independent or Congregational Church at Cornaig.
On the island there are church buildings which have been recycled:
The Baptist premises at Baugh are being restored and renovated for use by the church and the wider community.
Over the years, the people living on Tiree have experienced revival – God moving in powerful ways, awakening the church, and drawing many to a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
For those wanting to know more about the ancient chapels there is an excellent leaflet by the ‘Tiree Heritage Society’ and ‘Discover Tiree’. An Iodhlann, the island’s historical centre, is most helpful and a great source of information about Tiree’s past. However, for the present, the local Baptist Church, the Church of Scotland and Siloam all welcome visitors and enquiries.