The erroneously named Temple of Minerva Medica is, in fact, a ruined nymphaeum of Imperial Rome, built in the 4th century. Nymphaeum is a building devoted to the nymphs and often connected to the water supply. The decagonal structure in opus latericium is relatively well preserved, the full dome having collapsed only in 1828. It is surrounded on three sides with other chambers added at a later date. There is no mention of it in ancient literature or inscriptions.
The structure represents a transition in Roman secular architecture between the octagonal dining room of the Domus Aurea and the dome of the Pantheon, in particular, and the architecture of nearby Byzantine churches. The diameter of the hall is about 24 metres, and the height was 33 — important from the structural point of view, especially for the ribs in the dome. In the interior are nine niches, besides the entrance; and above these are ten corresponding round-arched windows. Both the interior and exterior walls were once covered with marble.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.