Kingussie Parish Church Scottish Charity No. SC021546
Linked with Laggan & Newtonmore
.Update 6 May 4th
Speak to people who have visited Iona, an island around 1 mile wide and 4 miles long and the first thing many will tell you about, was their overwhelming feelings of peace and calm, not only experienced on the island but taken home sustaining their spiritual well-
Take a quick look around your surroundings and you might well notice the lack of cars. Iona is subject to a Prohibition of Vehicles Order controlling the types of vehicles allowed onto the island to protect its unique atmosphere. Neither does it have the infrastructure to cope with large vehicle numbers. Hope you brought your virtual walking shoes. 😉
Iona surely benefits from a wealth of history through the ages. We can only scratch the surface in our visit and start with the arrival in 563 AD of Columba and twelve of his supporters.
Columba, was an Irish abbot who had been embroiled in the Battle of Cul Dreihmne in Ireland around 560 AD when many men were killed. The passage of time has muddied the waters as to all the why’s and wherefore’s of his departure from Ireland but leave he did in 563 AD accompanied by 12 of his followers. Exile is mentioned in some references to this departure but so too is pilgrimage.
They first stepped onto dry land on the Kintyre Peninsula however as Columba was still in sight of his native land he decided to move further north up the west coast of Scotland, landing eventually on the south side of Iona on a sandy beach now known as St Columba’s Bay.
From St Columba’s Bay we have a walk ahead of us to the Abbey……..
The great Abbey we see today is not the building from Columba’s day. Columba had little interest in grand buildings. He was more interested in spreading the word of God and is credited with the bringing and spreading of Christianity throughout Scotland.
Almost nothing remains of his original monastery however traces of the ditch that surrounded the monastic enclosure can still be seen. Inside would have have been a settlement resembling a small village, individual ‘beehive’ cells of wood and wattle for the monks to live, work and seek solitude for prayer in and a modest timber church.
We learn a great deal about the early monastery’s life from St Adomnan who wrote Columba’s biography 100 years after his death. Withdrawn, contemplative and austere, its primary purpose was the contemplation of God through prayer and learning. This written work is the most important surviving work written in early medieval Scotland, providing insight into those times and the daily lives of the monks. The Abbey was a renowned centre of learning with many hugely important documents and manuscripts copied in its scriptorium.
Columba died in 597 AD but not before he had urged his successor as abbot to take up his work. The monastery became a centre of pilgrimage. Sadly in 794 AD Iona suffered the first of numerous Viking raids when many of its treasures were plundered, and indeed a number of its monks slain. This marked a period of decline and by 825 AD the Abbey was virtually abandoned.
Abandoned perhaps but never forgotten, it continued to be considered a sacred place of pilgrimage thanks to Columba. At its height one of the greatest centres of learning, to its lows as a crumbling ruin.
It was to rise again as throughout the Abbey’s history it’s fortunes have fluctuated.