Teampall na Trianaid is situated in the village of Carinish, a short distance from the main road.
The Books of Clan Ranald state that Teampall na Trianaid was founded by Bethag, daughter of Somerled, Lord of the Isles. Bethag was the first prioress of Iona Nunnery, which was built in 1203.
The teampall and surrounding lands were granted by Somerled’s descendant Christina MacRuairi to Inchaffray Abbey in Perthshire sometime in the early part of the 1300s, a grant which was confirmed by Christina’s nephew Ranald MacRuairi in 1346. Amy MacRuairi, Ranald’s sister, inherited Uist, and is believed to have rebuilt the teampall. Amy’s son Godfrey, Lord of Uist confirmed the grant to Inchaffray Abbey in 1389, which was further confirmed by his brother Donald, Lord of the Isles in 1410.
The sanctuary around the teampall may have been bounded by the surrounding landmarks: Fadhail na Combraig (Sanctuary Ford); Cnoc na Croise Mor (the Hillock of the Big Cross); Cnocan na Croise Beaga (the Hillock of the Little Cross) and Cnoc nan Aingeal (Angels Hillock).
Connected to Teampall na Trianaid is a later building, Teampall Clann a’ Phiocair. Teampall na Trianaid was a significant centre of learning and teaching, and the MacVicar dynasty comprised many respected lecturers. Duns Scotus is said to have studied at the teampall, with the last student being the Jacobite Donald Roy MacDonald.
According to Trinity Temple:
For centuries the MacVicar teachers were allowed to carry on their great service for God and man in comparative peace, undisturbed and unaffected by world events, large and small, until the Reformation of 1560. Even then, the many changes brought about by the new religious order did not disturb the tranquillity of the Outer Hebrides for twenty years or more, the people as a whole were quite satisfied with the old church and did not want a change, and when a change was being forced upon them it was met by stout opposition from the MacVicars who were highly popular and exercised great influence over their followers.
Four of the MacVicars were murdered in 1581 and documents relating to the teampall destroyed. Again, from Trinity Temple:
We can rest assured that among the lost Carinish manuscripts, there were registers which were kept of all the students who graduated and also recorded details of the spheres in which they toiled after having left Trinity Temple.
Tuition would no doubt have been further disrupted by the events of May 1601 when the Battle of Carinish took place. A raiding party of MacLeods sheltered in the teampall the night before the battle.
Teampall na Trianaid has fallen into ruin over the years, with loss of carved stones and statues. More recently, in 2011, a conservation project has been undertaken by the Teampall na Trianaid Conservation Association, Comann Glèidhteachais Teampall na Trianaid. A leaflet containing a detailed account of the Trinity Temple’s history in Gaelic and English also included several aerial images supplied by James Gentles, who has compiled interactive panoramas showing the temple both before and after conservation work.
The teampall is a scheduled monument. Its listing on the Canmore database for RCAHMS can be found here.
Rev Norman MacDonald, who wrote a book about the site, made a recording for the School of Scottish Studies in 1972. The recording is available on the Tobar an Dualchais website.
- Record Type:
- Historical or Archaeological Site
- Record Maintained by: