Argyll Mausoleum

Posted in Exhibitions, Places

  • St Munn's church, Kilmun, with the Argyll Mausoleum and ruins of collegiate church, against a background of the sunlit Holy Loch.
  • A stone effigy of the Duchess of Argyll.
  • A panel installed outside the Agyll Masoleum, with the title 'May the chief rest in peace'.
  • A display in St Munn's curch, with display cabinets for objects from the mausoleum.
  • A bronze sculpture by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (1848 - 1939) of an angel lifting Christ from the cross. From the Argyll Mausoleum, Kilmun, Argyll.
  • Texts that have been carved into the paving around the church: "Good land by the loch/Fertile ground/For a seed of faith" and "Marble and bronze/And the slow turn of stars/Shelter mouldering dust."

I worked with a team of architects and designers to develop imaginative interpretation for this unique site, which is run by a local community group.

For over 500 years, the powerful Campbell clan buried their chiefs in the tiny village of Kilmun. They chose this unlikely spot because it was sacred to the memory of their patron saint, Saint Munn, who founded one of the earliest Christian settlements in the west of Scotland here. The Campbells became Dukes of Argyll, and their family mausoleum is tucked into the corner of the church that still serves the community. The ruined tower of an earlier church, sacked in a bloody clan feud, stands outside the door, and the graveyard is full of beautifully carved headstones.

I worked with Icosis Architects and long-time friends Aaron Lawton Associates to develop an integrated suite of visitor facilities at this complex site, including a shelter for welcome and orientation, outdoor panels, and evocative texts carved into the paving around the church. Inside, we developed a small exhibition that features some of the remarkable objects found in the mausoleum. I put together the interpretation plan and wrote all text for the project.

The restoration of the mausoleum and its opening to the public is managed by a dedicated group of local volunteers. We worked closely with this group, and carried out open consultation meetings so we could understand community sensitivities and aspirations. In 2016 the project was Commended in the Scottish Civic Trust My Place Awards, whose judges said “we were particularly enchanted with the tiny but beautiful visitor centre”.