Lüne Abbey was originally built for Benedictine nuns and today is home to a chapter of Lutheran conventuals. It is one of several former monasteries administered by the Hanoverian monastic chamber.
Lüne Abbey was founded in 1172 by Hildeswidis von Markboldestorp. In the founding document by Hugo, Bishop of Verden, there is no mention of the observances to be followed, so that it is assumed that it was a chapter of canonesses. Not until 1272 was the nunnery described in a document as an abbey for Benedictine nuns and only from the mid-14th century is a full adoption of Benedictine observances recorded.
The abbey was overseen by an abbess. Its administration and pastoral care was placed in the charge of a provost elected by the nuns. One of these provosts, Henry of Langlingen (d. 1381), was elected Prince-Bishop of Verden by the Verden cathedral chapter in 1367. Lüne nunnery belonged to the Bursfelde Congregation.
Following the introduction of the Reformation in the Principality of Lüneburg the first service in the German language was celebrated on 26 April 1528 at the instigation of Duke Ernest the Confessor, despite the opposition of the nuns. In 1529 the provostship's property was placed under ducal administration and a new provost, selected by the local lords, was installed who was to ensure the implementation of Lutheran doctrine.
However, due to considerably resistance by the orthodox nuns it took until 1562 before the new doctrine was fully adopted throughout the convent. On the basis of a rule in the Lüneburg Monastic Regulations the monastery retained its independence however. In 1711, at the behest of Duke George-Louis (later George I of Great Britain) the monastery was turned into a Lutheran convent, whose primary task was to take care of unmarried daughters of Lüneburg's country gentry.
In 1380 the monastery was rebuilt in the Brick Gothic style after a major fire. The cloisters, the single-nave church of 1412 and the Nonnenchor are well preserved, the same is true of the former Dormitorium (dormitory).
Lüne is famous for its knitting and embroidery (wool on linen). Valuable pieces (white embroidery (Weißstickerei) altar cloths, fasting cloths (Fastentücher) and carpets, the oldest dating to around 1250, are displayed in the textile museum in the grounds of the monastery opened in 1995. In the church on the altar in the Nonnenchor is a painting from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder. The high altar's triptych (carved altar) was made in the early 16th century. Also worthy of mention are the wall paintings from around 1500 in the refectory of the monastery.
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.