Paula de Fougerolles 2009

The island of Iona with the modern Abbey left foreground, Dun I center


Iona, a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, was a center of Christianity in Europe for much of the Middle Ages.  Columba, or Colum Cille as he was known, exiled from Ireland because of his part in the battle of Cul Dreimne, founded a monastery here in 563 A.D.  Under his leadership, Iona became a center of learning, culture and civilization, a light in the Dark Ages.  Missionaries sent out from Iona re-introduced Christianity and its attendant culture to the Northern English, and converted the Picts of Caledonia.

Iona became a major pilgrimage site, attracting visitors from all over Europe.  Many early Scottish, Irish, Norse and French kings chose to be buried on Iona, attesting to its wide fame as a holy island, the locus of the cult of St. Columba.  It is likely that much or all of The Book of Kells, the pre-eminent example of Irish manuscript art, was produced in the scriptorium at Iona, and then moved to Kells in Ireland when the monastery was abandoned in the face of viking predations in the ninth century.  Embedded in the earliest Irish annals is a stratum of information relating to battles and the affairs of kings which could only have come from Iona; it is this that historians call “The Chronicles of Iona”.  The present Benedictine Abbey was built in 1203. 

Today, 125 people call Iona home.  The Iona Community at the Abbey continues the work begun by its founder 1447 years ago.  


Paula de Fougerolles 2009

The Sound of Iona, looking across to the island of Mull



  2 comments for “Iona

  1. tinkyweisblat
    January 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    WHAT GORGEOUS PIX! Now I have another place I’d like to visit. Thanks, Paula.

  2. September 30, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I was so glad today to find your blog. I was so taken in by your excerpts from the book and it’s characters. I can not wait to read it.

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