View of Iona Abbey

View of Iona Abbey, Scotland


This evening, I am focusing on Iona which has played a pivotal role in the development of northern Christianity.

St Columba travelled across the Irish Sea in 563 AD and established a monastery on the current site. This would have been a very modest affair compared with both the current building and those built by monks of the Benedictine and Cistercian orders in the Middle Ages. The island had suitable resources for the self-sufficient life style followed by the monks.

A brief chronology of the Abbey is as follows:

  • Initial establishment in AD 563 which served as a catalyst to expansion of Christianity in Ireland and northern Britain.
  • In response to Viking raids just prior to AD800 the majority of the Iona community transferred to Kells in Ireland.
  • A Benedictine Abbey was founded at the end of the 12th/early 13th centuries, possibly at the instigation of Reginald, son of Somerled.
  • Most of the buildings of the Abbey together with those of the adjacent Augustinian Nunnery survived the 1560 Reformation.
  • The Abbey site began to attract visitors in the 18th century.
  • Considerable restoration and repair work was undertaken in 1874-6 on behalf of the Duke of Argyll.
  • Further work was undertaken  1902-10 including re-roofing te building following which the Abbey was used by the local Church of Scotland congregation (Presbyterian).
  • In 1938 Dr George MacLeod founded the Iona Community which in turn resulted in further estoration and repair work on the various buildings. This Community continues its work today.

Iona remains a popular visitor destination although access entails two ferry crossings and slow drive drive along the narrow roads of Mull. However, the effort will prove a reward for visitors with a wide range of interests including spiritual and non-spiritual. No visitor vehicles are allowed on the (tiny) island.

This image showes one of the free standing crosses which became popular during the early 8th century.

View of Iona Abbey

View of Iona Abbey, Scotland

This is the restored Nave

Inside historic Iona Abbey

Inside historic Iona Abbey, Scotland

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