In Ireland, on Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh, stand the ruins of an abbey on White Island. It would seem that many – if not most early Christian structures were erected in areas already sacred to the local population. Throughout Europe standing stones, dolmens, and other megalithic structures are to be found near early church sites, sometimes within churches themselves. Like its neighbour a few miles away on the same lough – Boa Island where Janus figures stand in the churchyard – White Island is no exception.
When archaeologists were working on the Abbey they noticed a number of stone lintels laid as part of the foundations. These turned out to be the pre-Christian statues portrayed here. Some are intact , some shattered. They have been arbitrarily inserted into one of the existing walls, as portrayed in the view through the archway. At least we can be grateful to the old monks for recognising the value of the statues as building materials!
The statues would not date from the Megalithic Era – more likely to be Iron Age – 500 Bc to Christian Era. They have much in common with European artefacts of the Central European Celtic culture which spread over so much of Europe between 500 BC and the era of its military opponent, Julius Caesar. White Island gives value for money (the cost of a short boat trip) in that it also has a Round Tower – a peculiarly Irish phenomenon. They were erected on sacred sites, of unknown date, and rebuilt sometimes to protect church plate and personnel from Viking raids post-800 AD. The lower walls od many Round Towers are vitrified on the inside where the stone surfaces were melted by intense heat. Persian Fire Towers have been suggested as a source.