Panagia Eleousa church dates to the 16th century, and is two aisled, rather than the three which would be more normal for the style of the time. The aisles end in a pair of cylindrical apses. Outside the church are the remains of the monastery which this church once served.
The two aisles are separated by a double archway, with the northern aisle being much smaller than the southern one. This difference in size can also be noticed from the outside in the different dimensions of the windows at the eastern end. The whole of the western end is a later addition, and the join can be seen both externally and internally.
The main door of the church shows Lusignan influences, which explains the lopsided nature of the church. The French Lusignans were Latin Christians, and while not actually banning Orthodox Christianity, treated it as second class. There are other examples in the Middle East where the ruling classes reluctantly allowed the peasants space to worship in their churches. To remind them of their place, the space allocated to the Orthodox Christians was much smaller than that allocated to the Latin Christians.
Although disused, the church continues to be a place of pilgrimage by Orthodox visitors, and it is unusual to visit and not see a lit candle.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.