In 563 A.D., St. Columba (Columcille) and 12 companions founded the monastery of Iona. It became a renowned monastic school of learning and was mainly responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout much of Scotland and northern England. It was here, it is believed, that the Book of Kells, one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts and now residing at Trinity College in Dublin, was produced in whole or in part. After a series of Viking raids, the monastery was eventually abandoned in the 9th Century. In the early 12th Century, the present abbey and a nunnery were erected to house Benedictine monks and Augustinian nuns. They continued to flourish until the Reformation and fell into ruin. The abbey and many of the other monastic buildings, which may be visited today, were laregly renovated in the 20th Century The nunnery has been left in its ruined stage.
Iona suffered a series of regular Viking attacks starting in 795 A.D. and lasting until the 10th Century. Iona managed somehow to survive these attacks mainly by partial withdrawal. In 804 A.D., the monks acquired land at Kells in Ireland and started to build a monastery there to which they could retreat. The worst Viking attack, however, ocurred in 806 A.D. when 68 monks were killed at what is today called Martyr's Bay on the east side of Iona.
After viewing the Additional Photos of Martyr's Bay on this page, return to the Saints - Scotland page to view other Iona pages.
Historic Scotland: Iona Abbey and Nunnery
Journey to Iona
Iona is a small island located one mile southwest of the larger Isle of Mull in Argyll and Bute off Scotland's West coast. Iona is accessible only by ferry from Mull, which is accessible by ferry from Oban on the Scottish mainland.
Undiscovered Scotland: Iona Abbey
Undiscovered Scotland: Iona Nunnery
Undiscovered Scotland: Relig Odhráin & St Oran's Chapel
Undiscovered Scotland: Infirmary Museum
Trinity College: The Book of Kells
Ordnance Survey Map (NM286245)
Information on Iona may be found at the Historic Scotland Iona Abbey and Nunnery and Iona Community Council websites. Additional information on Iona and information on Mull may be found on the Welcome to Mull and Iona website. Information on the Oban area may be found at the Visit Oban website. Ferry information may be found on the Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) Ferries website.
Additional Photos of Martyr's Bay
Martyr's Bay, Site of Massacre of Monks by Vikings
Another view of Martyr's Bay