Broch of Mousa is the finest preserved Iron Age broch (round tower) in Shetland. It is the tallest still standing in the world and amongst the best-preserved prehistoric buildings in Europe. It is thought to have been constructed circa 100 BC, one of 570 brochs built throughout Scotland. The site is managed by Historic Scotland.

It has one of the smallest overall diameters of any broch, as well as one of the thickest wall bases and smallest interiors; this massive construction (as well as its remote location) is likely to be the main explanation for its excellent state of preservation.

Located on the island of Mousa, it stands 13 m high and is accessible via a single entrance at ground level. Once inside, a visitor may ascend an internal staircase to an open walkway at the top. It is the only broch which is complete right to the top, including the original intramural stair. It is built of dry stone with no mortar, thus any disturbance could cause a great deal of damage. The characteristic hollow-walled construction is very clear at this site.

The broch went through at least two phases of occupation. In its original condition it doubtless contained a complex wooden roundhouse with at least one raised floor resting on a ledge or scarcement 2.1m above the ground. This floor was probably reached by the stone stair inside the wall. A second scarcement about 3.9m up could have supported a second floor or a roof. The entrance passage was low and lintelled with flat slabs and a water tank was cut in the underlying rock. There was also a large rectangular hearth resting on the rock.

Some time later a low stone bench was added round the base of the inside wall and this extended a short way into the entrance passage. The wooden roundhouse may have been demolished at this point; it was certainly demolished before the small wheelhouse (with three projecting stone piers) was built in the interior.

These Norse occupations are probably reflected in the fact that the original low lintels of the broch entrance have been torn out (their stumps can be seen), and the outer doorway doubled in height (it has now been restored to its original low level). This implies that the interior and the entrance were full of debris so the Norsemen had to raise the roof of the passage to get in.

In the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh is a large rim sherd from the broch of Mousa, probably found during the 19th century clearance. It is part of a large Everted Rim jar with a black burnshed outer surface and horizontal fluting along the inner surface of the rim.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 100 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom

Rating

5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bob Knox (3 years ago)
A highlight of our visit to Shetland.
Joseph Briggs (3 years ago)
Stunning worth every penny to see the Broch
Mark Allinson (3 years ago)
Makes a great day trip if you have a boat. The Broch is in fantastic condition. Well worth the effort to visit.
Hilo Lin (3 years ago)
Practical wisdom is only to be learned in the school of experience.
Michael Stewart (4 years ago)
Eerie and atmospheric. It's so wonderfully untouched since it's habitation that you feel immediately transported back.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.

According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.

In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.

The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.

Architecture

The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.

In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.

The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.