Infobox Scottish island |
celtic name=Ì Chaluim Cille
norse name=Eyin Helga; Hioe "(hypothetical)"
meaning of name= Gaelic for '
area=877 ha (2,166 acres)
highest elevation=Dùn Ì 101m (331 ft)
main settlement=Baile Mór
island group= Mull
Argyll and Bute
references= [Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) "The Scottish Islands". Edinburgh. Canongate.] [ [http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/ Ordnance Survey] ] [Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) "Orkneyinga Saga". Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9]
Iona is a small island in the
Inner Hebridesof Scotlandthat has an important place in the history of Christianity in Scotland and is renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. Its Gaelic name is "Ì Chaluim Cille" (Saint Columba's Island; formerly anglicised "Icolmkill"), or sometimes just "Ì" or "Idhe".
Iona lies approximately one mile (1.6 km) from the coast of Mull. The island is 1 mile wide (1.6 km) and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long with a resident
populationof 125. [http://www.scrol.gov.uk Scotland Census 2001 - anaylser] ] The island's stone base is covered by a layer of basaltic lava, and like other places swept by ocean breezes. There are few trees, with most of these being located around the parish church area.
Iona's highest point is Dùn Ì (101 m, 331 ft), an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BC – 200 AD. Its geographical features include the
Bay at the Back of the Oceanand "Càrn Cùl ri Éirinn" (the Hill/ Cairnwith its Back to Ireland), said to be adjacent to the beach where St. Columba first landed.
Prior to the 6th century, Iona may already have been a sacred island in the pre-Christian traditions of the
Iron Ageinhabitants of the Hebrides. Though there is no actual physical evidence for this, it would explain why Columba settled on this particular island. In 563 Saint Columba, also known as Colm Cille, was exiled from his native Irelandas a result of his involvement in the Battle of Cul Dreimhne, [Admonan "The Life of St. Columba, Founder of Hy" ed. William Reeves (1857) University Press for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society. pp. 248-50.] and founded a monasteryon Iona with 12 companions. From there they set about the conversion of pagan Scotland and much of northern Englandto Christianity. Iona's fame as a place of learning and Christian mission spread throughout Europeand it became a major site of pilgrimage. Iona became a holy island where several kings of Scotland, Irelandand Norwaycame to be buried.
Many believe that the
Book of Kellswas produced, in whole or in part, on Iona towards the end of the 8th century. A series of Vikingraids on the monastery on Iona began in 794, and after its treasures had been plundered many times, Columba’s relics were removed and divided two ways between Scotland and Ireland in 849 as the monastery was abandoned. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/earlychurch/trails_earlychurch_iona2.shtml BBC - Iona - A Beacon of Light Through the Dark Ages] ] A conventfor the Order of BenedictineNuns was established in 1208, with Beathag, daughter of Somerled, as first prioress. The present Benedictine abbeywas built in 1203. The monastery itself flourished until the Reformation when buildings were demolished and all but three of the 360 carved crosses destroyed. [ [http://www.scotland.org.uk/guide/Isle_of_Iona Travel Scotland] ]
Iona Abbey, now an
ecumenicalchurch, is of particular historical and religious interest to pilgrims and visitors alike. It is the most elaborate and best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in the Western Islesof Scotland. Though modest in scale in comparison to medieval abbeys elsewhere in Western Europe, it has a wealth of fine architectural detail, and monuments of many periods.
In front of the Abbey stands the 9th century St Martin's Cross, one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in the
British Isles, and a replica of the 8th century St John's Cross (original fragments in the Abbey museum).
The ancient burial ground, called the Reilig Odhráin (Eng: Oran's "burial place" or "cemetery"), contains the 12th century chapel of St Odhrán (said to be
Columba's uncle), restored at the same time as the Abbey itself. It contains a number of medieval grave monuments. The abbey graveyard contains the graves of many early Scottish Kings, as well as kings from Ireland, Norway and France. Iona became the burial site for the kings of Dál Riataand their successors. Notable burials there include:
*Kenneth I King of Scots
*Donald II King of Scots
*Malcolm I King of Scots
*Duncan I King of Scots
*Macbeth King of Scots
*Donald III King of Scots
In 1549 an inventory of 48 Scottish, 8 Norwegian and 4 Irish kings was recorded. None of these graves are now identifiable (their inscriptions were reported to have worn away at the end of the 17th century).
The graveyard is also the final resting place of John Smith, the former Labour Party leader, who loved Iona. His grave is marked with an epitaph quoting
Alexander Pope: "An honest man's the noblest work of God". [http://travel.independent.co.uk/uk/article625010.ece "Walk Of The Month: The island of Iona"] " The Independent" 4 June 2006]
Other early Christian and medieval monuments have been removed for preservation to the cloister arcade of the Abbey, and the Abbey museum (in the medieval infirmary).
The ancient buildings of Iona Abbey are now cared for by
George MacLeodfounded the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions in the Christian church committed to seeking new ways of living the gospelof Jesusin today's world. This community is a leading force in the present Celtic Christianityrevival.
The Iona Community runs 3 residential centres on the Isle of Iona and on Mull. These are places of welcome and engagement giving a unique opportunity to live together in community with people of every background from all over the world. Weeks at the centres often follow a programme related to the concerns of the Iona Community.
Visitors can reach Iona by the 10-minute ferry trip across the
Sound of Ionafrom Fionnphorton Mull. The most common route is via Obanin Argyll and Bute. Regular ferries connect to Craignureon Mull, from where the scenic road runs 37 miles to Fionnphort. Tourist coaches and local bus services meet the ferries.There are very few cars on the island, as they are tightly regulated and vehicular access is not allowed for non-residents, who have to leave their car in Fionnphort. The island is small enough that one generally doesn't need a car. Bike hire is available at the pier, and on Mull.
Iona Nunnery survives as a series of exquisitely beautiful 12th-13th century ruins of the church and cloister, and a colourful and peaceful garden. Unlike the rest of the medieval religious buildings, the nunnery was too fragmentary to restore, though its remains are nevertheless the most complete survival of a medieval nunnery in Scotland.
Away from the historic buildings, Iona offers enjoyable walks to the north of the island, with pristine white sand beaches, and south and west to the Bay at the Back of the Atlantic.
Pebbles of the famous green streaked Iona marble, commercially mined in the 19th century (the quarry and original machinery survive) can be found on the island's beaches.
Port Bhan beach on the west side of the island is home of the annual
Iona Beach Party.
* [http://www.isle-of-iona.com/ Isle of Iona, Scotland] (produced on behalf of the Iona Community Council)
* [http://www.iona.org.uk/ The Iona Community]
* Computer-generated virtual panorama [http://www.viewfinderpanoramas.org/panoramas/ISL/Iona.gifSummit of Iona] [http://www.viewfinderpanoramas.org/panoramas.html Index]
* [http://www.ionabeachparty.co.uk/ Official Iona Beach Party website]
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