The Monastery of San Xulián de Samos is an active Benedictine monastery founded in the sixth century. The monastery was the School of Theology and Philosophy. It is also an important stop on the Way of Saint James, a pilgrimage leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great.
The foundation is attributed to Martin of Braga. It is known to have been renovated by Saint Fructuoso in the seventh century, although the first written mention of this event is from the year 665. An inscription on the walls of the cloister of the lodge says that it was rebuilt by the Bishop of Lugo Ermefredo. After this restoration it was abandoned before the Muslim invasion until the reconquest of King Fruela I of Asturias, which took place around 760. When, years later, he was assassinated, his widow and son, the future Alfonso II of Asturias, the Chaste, found refuge in the monastery. That earned the monastery royal protection, starting with the properties in a half-mile radius, which would encourage growth.
In the early tenth century, the bishop of Lugo, Don Ero, attempted to seize control and expelled the monks. The Counts Arias Menéndez and Gutierre Menéndez, children of Hermenegildo Menéndez, were required to repopulate the new monastery with monks. Thereafter there were good relations between the monastery and the Count's family.
In the same century it was reoccupied at the behest of King Ordoño II of León and from 960 the community lived under the rule of St. Benedict, but in the twelfth century the Cluniac reform joined with Bishop Don Juan. The monastery of Samos enjoyed great importance during the Middle Ages, which is reflected by its two hundred villas and five hundred sites. In 1558, already incorporated into the Royal San Benito of Valladolid, the monastery suffered a fire that forced its complete rebuilding. The community was dispossessed in 1836, with the confiscation of Mendizabal, but the Benedictine monks returned in 1880.
It suffered another fire in 1951, after which it had to be rebuilt again. There are several architectural styles: late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.