Dedicated to St. Benedict of Nursia, the church of San Benedetto was built from April 1334, then it was destroyed by 1693 Sicily earthquake. The church and the monastery were rebuilt between 1708 and 1763 and Giovanni Battista Vaccarini was one of the main architects.
The church was also damaged by bombing in World War II and later restored by the architect Armand Dillon.
Its most famous feature is the Angel's Staircase, a marble entrance stair decorated with statues of angels and surrounded by a wrought iron railings. The entrance door, in wood, has panels with Stories of St. Benedict.
The interior, with a single nave, is home to frescoes by Sebastiano Lo Monaco, Giovanni Tuccari and Matteo Desiderato. The vault and semi-dome were painted Giovanni Tuccari with the History of Saint Benedict and six Allegories surrounding the Triumph of Saint Benedict. The Saint is represented in his traditional iconography, in a festive and cheerful scenario. The high altar is in polychrome marble with hardstone intarsia and bronze panels.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.