White Island is a small island on Lower Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Within the reconstructed remains of an early medieval church are a remarkable series of sculpted figures that were recovered from the fabric of the church and its environs. The figures have very distinctive faces with heavy brows, protruding eyes, cheeks and mouths. Almost all of them wear long-sleeve tunics with clearly distinguished hems. Despite these similar features, each figure has particular characteristics. Following the figures from left to right they depict:
- smiling cross-legged figure wearing a cape
- figure holding a book or a box
- hooded figure carrying a bell and a crozier
- figure with a sceptre or staff against his shoulder, a pouch at his waist, and his hand held to his chin
- figure holding two (?) griffins
- figure holding a circular shield and sword and wearing a thistle brooch
Although not certain, some of the figures have been regarded as depicting powerful members of society (e.g. an abbot, a king) and may have decorated some external feature around the church. They have been dated to the 9th or 10th centuries AD.
*This information derived from R. Moss, ‘White Island figures’, in R. Moss (ed.),Art and Architecture of Ireland Volume 1 (Medieval) (New Haven, 2014), 317-8.