Eilean Mor, ‘the big isle’ at the south end of Loch Sween, has three ancient monuments – a cave, a chapel and a cross. Together, they tell the story of Christianity in this corner of Scotland.
The cave is known as St Cormac’s Cave, after the Irish saint Cormaig, legendary founder of nearby Keills Chapel, who is reputed to have used the cave as his hermitage, or retreat. It is now entered through a fissure in the rock face, but was originally reached along a 3m-long tunnel. The cave itself, around 3m long, 1m wide and 2m high, contains little other than two incised crosses on its east wall, dating to around AD 700 judging by their style.
A ruined drystone structure nearby may have been a later ‘ticket office’ for controlling medieval pilgrims heading for the saint’s abode.
This little chapel stands close to a natural landing place at the north-east end of the island. It has had a chequered history. The simple rectangular structure was built in the 13th century. It was extensively altered in the 14th century, when John MacDonald, 1st Lord of the Isles had the chancel upgraded. It was finally converted into a dwelling house around 1700, for use by a tenant of Macneil of Gillchoille, the island’s owner. The effigy of a late-medieval cleric, richly attired in his vestments but now headless, is still preserved here.
Beside the chapel stands St Cormac’s Cross, believed to be of 10th-century date. Only the shaft and lower part of the ringed cross-head survive, and much of the decoration on the west face is damaged. The east face, though, is still festooned with monsters wrestling and gripping snakes, and a hooded rider astride an oversized horse. The disc-headed cross on the island’s highest point is a replica of the late 14th-century cross erected by Mariota de Ros, wife of Donald MacDonald, 2nd Lord of the Isles. The original was taken for safe-keeping to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh in 1937.References:
Royal Palace of Naples was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860): the others were the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte overlooking Naples, and the third Portici, on the slopes of Vesuvius.
Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. On the occasion of his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738, Francesco De Mura and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro helped remodel the interior. Further modernization took place under Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In 1768, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Carolina of Austria, under the direction of Ferdinando Fuga, the great hall was rebuilt and the court theater added. During the second half of the 18th century, a 'new wing' was added, which in 1927 became the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library. By the 18th century, the royal residence was moved to Reggia of Caserta, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault, as well as more distant from the often-rebellious populace of Naples.
During the Napoleonic occupation the palace was enriched by Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, with Neoclassic decorations and furnishings. However, a fire in 1837 damaged many rooms, and required restoration from 1838 to 1858 under the direction of Gaetano Genovese. Further additions of a Party Wing and a Belvedere were made in this period. At the corner of the palace with San Carlo Theatre, a new facade was created that obscured the viceroyal palace of Pedro de Toledo.
In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.
The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.