Iona Abbey Part 2

Above you can see St. Columba's Shrine just behind the St. John's cross replica.

This is a continuation of a post I did two weeks ago. You can see part one by clicking here.

St. Columba traveled from Ireland and founded an important monastery on Iona in 563 AD.

St. Columba was born in 521 or 522 as Crimthann, a child of the powerful Ui Neill family in northern Ireland where they were overlords. They were dominant in what is now County Donegal. Columba or Colum Cille ('Dove of the Church') was fostered by a priest and seemed destined for the church. In the 540s he studied at Leinster and under Uinniau (Finnian) at Moville or Clonard. No one really knows why Columba left Ireland in  563 though there are many legends, theories and stories. Some say he was unjustly excommunicated. Others say some of his writings were contraversal. While another story says he took sides in a battle between two branches of the Ui Neill. Anyway, he went to Iona and founded the monastery, one of many. He also founded them at Hinba, Mag Luinge on Tiree and Durrow in Ireland.

Columba did not come primarily to convert a pagan population because the Argyll area was already Christianized by that time. He acted as a priest who preached to the people and saw to their spiritual needs. He traveled around the different Scottish isles and visited the Picts on the mainland.

Columba's biographer, Adomnan wrote that Columba occupied his time by copying manuscripts, praying or meditating and leading his monks in worship and work.

St. Columba's Shrine.
 St. Columba's Shrine

Although only bits of the original building survive, it's likely that this small chapel was the main focus of pilgrimage for centuries. Most of the building standing today is from the 1962 restoration. The lowest levels of stonework are original and date from the 800s or 900s. The building was an oratory or chapel built to an Irish design. Tradition says that St. Columba is buried here, but no evidence has been found to support this.

Click to enlarge.

Interior of St. Columba's Shrine.

Well in front of the shrine.

Cradle of the North Wind.

View alongside the abbey.

 The Cloister

A cloister is a central court around which monastic communities in western Europe organized their domestic quarters. The covered walkways linked the church with the domestic buildings but they also served as a place for quiet contemplation and as a processional route.

Many of the fragments from the original cloister remain but most of the work seen here is modern and was created in 1958 - 59. Some of them contain leaf and bird designs.

Two of the above column pairs look as if they might be original. They look older than the rest.
The cloister was originally laid out in the 1200s but underwent changes in the 1400s. The restoration in the 1950s followed the original 1200s plan. Most of the buildings around the cloister date to the reconstruction. The sculpture in the center of the cloister is called 'Descent of the Spirit' and is by Jacques Lipchitz.

The Cloister
 This beautiful place was mostly reconstructed and brought back from ruin, but the arcaded walkways around the central garden appear as they did during the days of the Benedictine abbey, except back then they would've been decorated with bright colors. Several West Highland graveslabs are on display here around the cloister.

Grave Slabs in the arcaded walkways of the Cloister.
The abbey contains over a hundred whole and fragmented grave slabs. This style of carving developed in the West Highlands in the 1300s. These were made to commemorate 'the best men of all the Isles', leading members of the West Highland families including the MacDonalds, MacKinnons, MacLeans and MacLeods. They are decorated with foliage, swords, hunting scenes, galleys (birlinn). Most of these slabs were removed from the nearby burial ground Reilig Odhrain in the mid 1900s and placed here for their safety and conservation. In the mid 1800s, the Duke of Argyll had them all rearranged and moved into rows within iron railings so it was impossible to tell where they had originally been placed anyway.

Detail of a West Highland grave slab showing a galley or birlinn and other beautiful designs.

Detail of grave slab showing a two-handed Highland sword and other designs.
I hope you've enjoyed these glimpses of Iona Abbey.

The French language edition of My Fierce Highlander (Le Guerrier Sauvage) will be released on Dec. 5! I'm excited to hear if French readers enjoy my books. I love the cover! What do you think?

For those who read French, this is the description on the French Amazon site including an awesome endorsement from Jackie Ivie. 

Magistral ! Les pages de ce livre se tournent toutes seules. Vonda Sinclair a une plume remarquable et un sacré talent de conteuse. » Jackie Ivie, auteure de « La Dame et le chevalier ». (Translates as: Masterly! The pages of this book are turning themselves. Vonda Sinclair has a remarkable pen and a sacred talented storyteller.)

(Thank you, Jackie Ivie!!)

Écosse, XVIIe siècle. Gwyneth est anglaise. Bannie du royaume par son père, elle est condamnée à mener une existence austère dans les Highlands. Elle tente de mettre son fils à l abri de la guerre qui déchire deux clans : celui auquel elle est liée, les MacIrwins et leurs ennemis, les MacGrath. Après une bataille sanglante, elle sauve la vie à un guerrier blessé du clan ennemi et ne tarde pas à tomber sous son charme. Si les siens découvrent la trahison, elle s expose à une vengeance sans précédent.

The English language Kindle version is only .99 cents!!

Gwyneth Carswell, an English lady banished by her father to the harsh Scottish Highlands, wants nothing more than to take her young son away from the violence of two fighting clans--her own distant kin, the MacIrwins, and their enemies, the MacGraths. She risks everything to rescue the fierce MacGrath warrior from the battlefield where he’s left for dead by her clan. She only knows she is inexplicably drawn to him and he wants peace as she does. When her clan learns of her betrayal, they seek vengeance. Dare she trust the enemy more than her own family? 

Laird Alasdair MacGrath is driven to end two-hundred years of feuding with the MacIrwins. But by taking in and protecting Lady Gwyneth and her son, he provokes more attacks from his mortal enemy. As the danger and conflict surrounding them escalate, Alasdair and Gwyneth discover an explosive passion neither of them expected. With the arrival of a powerful man from her past, a horrible decision confronts her--give up her son or the man she loves. 
Available at Amazon and all other online booksellers.


Randy said...

It's hard to get my head wrapped around how old everything truly is! :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Now days some contractors can't even get a light fixture on the wall straight. How on earth did they get arched doorway after doorway so perfect?? Amazingly beautiful photos, Vonda. You capture the beauty so well. Thank you! Hugs!

Vonda Sinclair said...

I agree, Randy. Especially when talking about the 500s.

Vonda Sinclair said...

That's true, Paisley. They must have had some skilled craftsmen. Thank you so much! Hugs!

BBT said...

The Iona Abby was my favorite place to visit while in Oban last summer. The photos are beautiful. Thanks for the memory.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Brenda! It's a wonderful place.

Gwyn Brodie said...

I have to visit here one day! Great blog on an amazing place with tons of history!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Gwyn! Hope you get to visit it. You'll love it!