22 November 2008

Columba and Iona

Saint Columba (521 - 597) came to Iona from Ireland. It's not entirely clear why. Some accounts say that he was sent into exile after his side lost in a feud, others that he was simply called to be a missionary to the Picts. Be that as it may, he took Iona as a convenient base not too far from the lands of the Scots (who were confusingly enough an Irish people) in the south-west of today's Scotland and those of the Picts in the north-east and founded a monastery there. Although he spent most of the rest of his life in Scotland, Columba did make one trip back to Durrow in Ireland, where he founded another monastery.

The Medieval Sourcebook has Adamnan's Life of St. Columba (for Adamnan, see these posts from Heavenfield), while the Catholic Encyclopedia has an early 20th century version of his life. As part of its series on the history of Scotland, the BBC has pages dedicated to St. Columba and Iona (unfortunately the video clips are not available to all).

The monastery on Iona flourished as a centre of learning until the monastery had to be abandoned in 825 due to repeated Viking raids. Iona Abbey was founded in 1200 but was closed in the Scottish Reformation. In 1938 the non-denominational Iona Community was founded and Iona is still a place of Christian pilgrimage today.

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The tab marked 'A' marks Iona in the above map. The Iona Community Council's site has tourist information and panoramas of the island. The band Iona has pictures from the island of Iona on their website.

The youtube video below is part of a series exploring why people come on pilgrimage to Iona.

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