Churwalden Abbey is a former Premonstratensian abbey, abandoned after the Protestant Reformation and was formally dissolved in 1803/07.
The abbey was founded under a provost around 1150 or 1164 by the Freiherr von Vaz. The abbey church of Saint Mary already stood on the site and was first mentioned in 1149 as S. Maria in silva Augeria. The vogt over the abbey lived in the nearby Strassberg Castle. Soon after its founding, in addition to the Permonstratensian canons regular, Augustinian nuns were living at the monastery. In 1208 an uprising of the lay brothers drove the provost and his supporters out of Churwalden. They eventually settled in Rüti Abbey in Rüti in the canton of Zürich. The monastery stood along one of the main trade roads over the alpine passes of Graubünden and became a resting place and hospital for travelers. By 1210 the hospital had its own chapel.
During the mid-13th century the Church of St. Michael was built about 250 m north of the abbey church. A fire around 1400 destroyed much of the monastery complex and over the following years it was gradually rebuilt. In 1446 it was raised from a monastery to an abbey. At some point during the 14th or 15th centuries the provost or abbot began building a comfortable tower house about 100 m south of the abbey church. The tower is four stories and an attic tall and was renovated multiple times over the following centuries. In 1472 it was partially gutted in a fire and the upper two stories were rebuilt in the early 16th century. The 1472 fire also destroyed the Church of St. Michael, which was rebuilt in the Gothic style and consecrated in 1502.
In the early 16th century the Protestant Reformation spread into the region and in 1527 was adopted partially adopted in Churwalden. A Protestant vogt was appointed over the abbey, abbey lands were confiscated and the monastery was forbidden to accept novices. In 1533 there was only one monk and the abbot still at Churwalden. In 1599, the previous abbot was not replaced and the remaining abbey lands were administered from Roggenburg. In 1616 the court in Churwalden declared that the church would have to be used for both catholic and Protestant services. In 1803 Roggenburg Abbey was closed and the remaining Churwalden lands were transferred to the seminary at St. Luzi. With this transfer, the abbey was formally dissolved. After 1599 the abbey buildings slowly fell into ruin and were eventually demolished, leaving only the abbot's tower and the Church of St. Maria and Michael.
The abbot's tower was built around the mid-15th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. The interior was renovated in 1870. Inside traces of late-Gothic murals are still visible, along with Renaissance wooden panels in the abbot's sitting room.
The original church on the site was the Romanesque Church of St. Michael, which was destroyed in a fire in 1472. It was rebuilt from 1477 until 1502 in the Gothic style. The current church is a three-apse building with a choirthat spans the entire width. The bell tower is located on the north side of the building. The unplastered tower was built between 1250 and 1340 and renovated in 1511. The west portal has a half-round arch that was once decorated with a coat of arms.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.