Зображення сторінки

barrows, or tumuli, which meet the eye on all sides. It is, indeed, certain that several of these—viz., what are called the " Picts' houses," which form in their interior stone chambers, covered by small flag-stones laid over one another—must be ascribed to the older inhabitants of the island; yet enough remain which we may with good reason attribute to the Norwegians and Danes. They are not, like those tumuli, or "cairns," which are found most frequently in the north of Scotland, a mass of small stones heaped together without any filling-in of earth, but are formed, like our Scandinavian barrows, of earth thrown up to a very considerable height. As in Scandinavia, they are met with mostly on hills, and near the firths or seacoasts, whence there is an uninterrupted view of the sea. To the ancient Northman it was evidently an almost insufferable thought to be buried in a confined or remote corner, where nobody could see his grave or be reminded of his deeds. The greater chief a man was the more did he desire that his "barrow" should lie high and uninclosed, so that it might be visible to all who travelled by land and by sea. United with this desire to live in the memory of posterity, the Viking certainly also indulged the secret belief, that his spirit, or ghost, would at times arise from the barrow to look out upon that beloved sea, and to refresh itself, after the gloomy closeness of the grave, with the cool breezes which play upon its bosom.

Some of the largest and most prominent barrows in the Orkneys are found about the middle of Mainland. To the west of the deep fiord in the middle of the east coast, (formerly Orre'Sfjord "AurriaSfjdrdr," i. e. Trout firth, but now called Firth), and cutting its way northwards far into the land, is the before-mentioned Loch of Stennis, with its famous old Celtic stone circles. But the largest of these, which lies on the ridge of a naze, or promontory (from Old N. "Steinsness "), is encompassed by twelve considerable, and partly perhaps Norwegian or Scandinavian, barrows; amongst which two in particular, to the north-east and north-west of the circle, are distinguished by their size and circumference. As the Saga informs us that it was on Steinsnajs that the chief, Einard Klining, at the instigation of Erik Blodoxe's daughter, Rajmhilde, killed her husband Jarl Haavard, it is not impossible that one of the last-named large barrows may be the jarl's grave. At all events it is natural enough that the Norwegians should have had a predilection for being buried on that lofty promontory, which was regarded even by the earlier inhabitants of the island as a holy place, and had been adorned by them with a truly imposing circle of immense blocks of stone. Future excavations will doubtless more clearly show which of the barrows are really Norwegian ; but this much is certain—that the naze, with the circle of stones and the surrounding barrows, as well as the view of the three immense monumental stones, placed erect in a semicircle on the opposite side of Loch Stennis, afford a prospect not only interesting to the antiquarian, but which must strike every beholder.

Here and there, on Mainland, we meet with graves of the heathen times, which are not at all uncommon in the Orkneys and Shetland Isles. They are, however, of much lower elevation than those previously mentioned, and in general rise very little above the surface of tho soil. In some of these, as in Shetland, besides urns, containing burnt bones and ashes, bodies have at times been found that have been buried without being burnt; together with swords of the Scandinavian kind before described, heads of lances, daggers, and knives; as well as bone combs, bowl-formed brooches of brass, and various other ornaments, evidently of Norwegian workmanship.

Just as the barrows, or grave hills, in Mainland, indicate by their peculiar size that in the heathen times the island was the chosen place of assembly for the mightiest men in the Orkneys and Shetland Isles, so also do the monuments of the early middle ages show that it continued to maintain its former pre-eminence after heathenism had ceased. Farthest towards the north-west, in the parish of Birsay, (BirgisheraB), are to be seen considerable remains of the old castle, inhabited in the most ancient times by the jarls. Near the coast lies the Island of Brough (Burgh) of Birsay, on which also are seen traces of fortifications that have served to protect the jarls' castle on the side of the sea. In the neighbourhood of this castle, Jarl Thorfin built a church, called Christ Church, in which both he and Jarl Magnus were buried. The latter, however, being afterwards canonized, his body was taken to Kirkwall. In the twelfth century, Bishop Wilhelm, the first bishop of the Orkneys, had his throne in this church. In Orphir (" Orfjara"), on the south coast of the island, was another castle where the jarls usually dwelt, until, together with the bishops, they fixed their abode at Kirkwall.

This town, which lies close to an excellent harbour, and opposite the Island of Shapinsay, has for about seven hundred years been the capital of the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles. It seems, however, to have existed even earlier, as a village, or small trading place. Its name, "Kirkjuvagr" (" Kirkevaag," Eng. Church-bay), since corrupted into Kirkwall, was derived from a church which stood there. The elevation of the town to be the residence of jarls and bishops took place in the twelfth century, after Jarl Ragnhild had built a large cathedral there, to which he caused to be conveyed the body of St. Magnus, the patron saint of the island, to whom the cathedral was consecrated. Thus the body of the saint effected for the town what its excellent harbour had not been able to accomplish. In the parish of St. Ola', within the town, there was formerly also a church consecrated to St. Olaf, the patron saint of Norway, but it has long since been demolished.

The traveller cannot but dwell, when in Kirkwall, on the remembrance of the departed splendour of the island, as he views the proud ruins of the jarls' castle, which, however, in its last form was not built till the fifteenth century, and of the bishops' castle, in which King Hakon Hakonson of Norway died on the 16th of December, 1263. But what is still more striking to him who has leisure to examine it thoroughly, is the magnificent Church of St. Magnus, incontestably the most glorious monument of the time of the Norwegian dominion to be found in Scotland. Only one other cathedral church in all Scotland, namely, St. Mungo's, in Glasgow, has in its most essential parts escaped perfectly uninjured from the violent religious commotions produced by the Reformation. The annexed sketch (partly after a drawing by Billings) will, at least, better serve to convey an idea of the remarkable appearance of this cathedral than any detailed description. Its length is 230 feet, its breadth 55 feet, or, if the transepts be included in the measurement, 101 feet, and its height about 50 feet. The arched vaults of the nave rest on 28 pillars, of which the four, in particular, that bear the tower are distinguished by their size and tasteful forms.

According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Jarl Ragnvald, by the advice of his father Kol, made a vow to St. Magnus that he would build a splendid church in his honour, if he (Ragnvald) succeeded in gaining the mastery over the islands. He obtained the dominion of them in the year 1137, and immediately afterwards began to lay the foundation of St. Magnus' Church. "At first," says the Saga, " the work went on so rapidly that subsequently there was not done near so much in four or five years. Kol was the person who, in fact, defrayed the expenses of the building, and determined how everything was to be. But by degrees, as the work proceeded, the expenses became burthensome to the jarl, whose pecuniary means were much exhausted. He therefore asked his father what he should do? Kol advised him to alter the law by which, upon the death of the owners, the jarls had hitherto succeeded to all the allodial land in the islands, so that the heirs had to redeem it, which they found very hard. The jarl, therefore, summoned the inhabitants to a Thing, and offered to

« НазадПродовжити »