Iona Abbey, Scotland

This evening, I am focusing on the small island of Iona which lies off the west coast of Scotland.

Today, this is principally a spiritual retreat centred on the Iona Community which has a line descent from the arrival of St. Columba in AD 563. Columba founded an early Irish-Christian monastery from where Christianity was introduced into Northern Britain. A summary chronology post Columba is as follows:

  •  The monastery and mission stimulated learning with chief manifestation being the Book of Kells which now resides at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. This probably dates from the 8th century and was taken to Kells in Ireland about that time for protection in face of Viking raids.
  • Large, free-standing stone crosses were constructed during the 8th century of which five survive.
  • In the 12th and 13th centuries a Benedictine Abbey was founded which brought Iona into the religious mainstream.
  • Most of the buildings survived the 1560 Reformation relatively undamaged but subsequently fell into disrepair.
  • The abbey and nunnery buildings were repaired and consolidated in the 19th century and the abbey was re-roofed by 1910.
  • In 1938 Dr. George MacLeod founded the Iona Community as a Church of Scotland brotherhood which acted as a catalyst for further restoration in a programme which was completed in 1965.
  • Most of the island is now owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland.

The key visitor sites on Iona comprise:

→The village with shop and Post Office.

→The ruined Nunnery which dates from around AD1200.

→The 1828 Parish Church and Manse.

→The 15th century MacLeans’s Cross.

→St. Oran’s Chapel.

→The five free-standing crosses.

→The Abbey, which was founded about AD 1200.

Iona is usually accessed from via short ferry ride from sister island of Mull. Visitor cars are not permitted on Iona.

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