Iona Nunnery

This evening, I am reporting on the 13th century Augustinian Nunnery on the island of Iona.

Iona is a tiny, 3.7 mile long island located off the West coast of Scotland and is usually accessed by ferry from the nearby island Mull. Whilst it has many attributes, Iona is best known for its famous Abbey but there are other historic sites on the island including the ruins of an Augustinian Nunnery which is locally known as An Eaglais Dubh or ‘the black church’. The building is certainly not black and the colour is believed to refer to the colour of the robes worn by the nuns.

View of Iona

The Nunnery has high volumes of visitors because the path to Iona Abbey runs past the ruins.

Iona Nunnery

Some key facts and information concerning the Nunnery:

  • Ceased to function around 1560, at time of Scottish Reformation.
  • One of the best preserved medieval nunneries in the British Isles.
  • The masonry is a mix of pink granite, yellow sandstone and grey flagstone.
  • Founded by Reginald, son of Somerled in the early 1200s and contemporary with founding of the nearby post-Columban Fransiscan Abbey.
  • The Nunnery’s first Prioress was Reginald’s sister, Beathag.
  • The complement of nuns would likely have been recruited from the daughters of West Highland nobility. They (the nuns) pursued a contemplative and cloistered life.
  • The key aspects of the buildings comprise:
    • Chapter-house, where a chapter of the Rule was read each day.
    • Cloister Garth where medicinal herbs were cultivated.
    • Refectory where food was served.
    • Dormitory.
    • Small church on north side.
  • A new flower garden was laid out in the 1920s and still maintained today.

Iona Nunnery

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