Iona

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Iona
Location
Iona is located in Argyll and Bute
Iona
Iona
Iona shown within Argyll and Bute
OS grid reference NM275245
Names
Gaelic name Ì Chaluim Chille
Pronunciation [iː xalˠ̪əmˈçiʎə] ( )
Norse name Eyin Helga; Hioe (hypothetical)
Meaning of name unclear
Area and summit
Area 877 hectares (3.4 sq mi)
Area rank 561
Highest elevation Dùn Ì 101 metres (331 ft)
Population
Population 1772
Population rank 351
Main settlement Baile Mór
Groupings
Island group Mull
Local Authority Argyll and Bute
Flag of Scotland.svg Lymphad3.svg
References 345

Iona (Scottish Gaelic: Ì Chaluim Chille) is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the Ross of Mull on the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. It is a popular tourist destination and a place for retreats. Its modern Gaelic name means "Iona of (Saint) Columba" (formerly anglicised "Icolmkill").

Etymology

The Hebrides have been occupied by the speakers of several languages since the Iron Age, and as a result many of the names of these islands have more than one possible meaning.6 Nonetheless few, if any, can have accumulated so many different names over the centuries as the island now known in English as "Iona".

The earliest forms of the name enabled place-name scholar William J. Watson to show that the name originally meant something like "yew-place".7 The element Ivo-, denoting "yew", occurs in Ogham inscriptions (Iva-cattos [genitive], Iva-geni [genitive]) and in Gaulish names (Ivo-rix, Ivo-magus) and may form the basis of early Gaelic names like Eogan (ogham: Ivo-genos).8 It is possible that the name is related to the mythological figure, Fer hÍ mac Eogabail, foster-son of Manannan, the forename meaning "man of the yew".9

Mac an Tàilleir (2003) lists the more recent Gaelic names of Ì,10 Ì Chaluim Chille and Eilean Idhe noting that the first named is "generally lengthened to avoid confusion" to the second, which means "Calum's (i.e. in latinised form "Columba's") Iona" or "island of Calum's monastery".1112 The possible confusion results from "ì", despite its original etymology, becoming a Gaelic noun (now obsolete) meaning simply "island".13 Eilean Idhe means "the isle of Iona", also known as Ì nam ban bòidheach ("the isle of beautiful women"). The modern English name comes from an 18th-century misreading of yet another variant, Ioua,1112 which was either just Adomnán's attempt to make the Gaelic name fit Latin grammar or else a genuine derivative from Ivova ("yew place").14 Ioua's change to Iona results from a transcription mistake resulting from the similarity of "n" and "u" in Insular Minuscule.15

Despite the continuity of forms in Gaelic between the pre-Norse and post-Norse eras, Haswell-Smith (2004) speculates that the name may have a Norse connection, Hiōe meaning "island of the den of the brown bear",12 "island of the den of the fox", or just "island of the cave".16 The medieval English language version was "Icolmkill" (and variants thereof).12

Table of earliest forms (incomplete)
Form Source Language Notes
Ioua insula Adomnán's Vita Columbae (c. 700) Latin Adomnán calls Eigg Egea insula and Skye Scia insula
Hii, Hy Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum Latin
Eoa, Iae, Ie,
I Cholaim Chille
Annals of Ulster Irish, Latin U563 Nauigatio Coluim Chille ad Insolam Iae
"The journey of St Columba to Í"
U716 Pascha comotatur in Eoa ciuitate
"The date of Easter is changed in the monastery of Í")17
U717 Expulsio familie Ie
"The expulsion of the community of Í"
U778 Niall...a nn-I Cholaim Chille
"Niall... in Í Cholaim Chille"
Hi, Eu Lebor na hUidre Irish Hi con ilur a mmartra
"Hi with the multitude of its relics"
in tan conucaib a chill hi tosuċ .i. Eu
"the time he raised his church first i.e. Eu"
Eo Walafrid Strabo (c. 831) Latin Insula Pictorum quaedam monstratur in oris fluctivago suspensa salo, cognominis Eo
"On the coasts of the Picts is pointed out an isle poised in the rolling sea, whose name is Eo"18
Euea insula Life of St Cathróe of Metz Latin

Folk etymology

Murray (1966) claims that the "ancient" Gaelic name was Innis nan Druinich ("the isle of Druidic hermits") and repeats a Gaelic story (which he admits is apocryphal) that as Columba's coracle first drew close to the island one of his companions cried out "Chì mi i" meaning "I see her" and that Columba's response was "Henceforth we shall call her Ì".19

Geography

Iona lies about 2 kilometres (1 mi) from the coast of Mull. It is about 2 kilometres (1 mi) wide and 6 kilometres (4 mi) long with a resident population of 125.20 The geology of the island consists mainly of Precambrian Lewisian gneiss with Torridonian sedimentary rocks on the eastern side21 and small outcrops of pink granite on the eastern beaches. Like other places swept by ocean breezes, there are few trees; most of them are near the parish church.

Iona's highest point is Dùn Ì, 101 metres (331 ft), an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100 BC – AD 200. Iona's geographical features include the Bay at the Back of the Ocean and Càrn Cùl ri Éirinn (the Hill/Cairn of [turning the] Back to Ireland), said to be adjacent to the beach where St. Columba first landed.

The main settlement, located at St. Ronan's Bay on the eastern side of the island, is called Baile Mòr and is also known locally as "The Village". The primary school, post office, the island's two hotels, the Bishop's House and the ruins of the Nunnery are here. The Abbey and MacLeod Centre are a short walk to the north.422 Port Bàn (white port) beach on the west side of the island is home to the Iona Beach Party.23

There are numerous offshore islets and skerries: Eilean Annraidh (island of storm) and Eilean Chalbha (calf island) to the north, Rèidh Eilean and Stac MhicMhurchaidh to the west and Eilean Mùsimul (mouse holm island) and Soa Island to the south are amongst the largest.4 The steamer Cathcart Park carrying a cargo of salt from Runcorn to Wick ran aground on Soa on 15 April 1912, the crew of 11 escaping in two boats.24

History

Dál Riata

The Book of Kells - Gospel of John

In the early Historic Period Iona lay within the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata. The island was the site of a highly important monastery (see Iona Abbey) during the Early Middle Ages. According to tradition the monastery was founded in 563 by the monk Columba, also known as Colm Cille, who had been exiled from his native Ireland as a result of his involvement in the Battle of Cul Dreimhne.25 Columba and twelve companions went into exile on Iona and founded a monastery there. The monastery was hugely successful, and played a crucial role in the conversion to Christianity of the Picts of present-day Scotland in the late 6th century and of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria in 635. Many satellite institutions were founded, and Iona became the centre of one of the most important monastic systems in Great Britain and Ireland.26

Iona became a renowned centre of learning, and its scriptorium produced highly important documents, probably including the original texts of the Iona Chronicle, thought to be the source for the early Irish annals.26 The monastery is often associated with the distinctive practices and traditions known as Celtic Christianity. In particular, Iona was a major supporter of the "Celtic" system for calculating the date of Easter at the time of the Easter controversy, which pitted supporters of the Celtic system against those favoring the "Roman" system used elsewhere in Western Christianity. The controversy weakened Iona's ties to Northumbria, which adopted the Roman system at the Synod of Whitby in 664, and to Pictland, which followed suit in the early 8th century. Iona itself did not adopt the Roman system until 715, according to the Anglo-Saxon historian Bede. Iona's prominence was further diminished over the next centuries as a result of Viking raids and the rise of other powerful monasteries in the system, such as the Abbey of Kells.26

The Book of Kells may have been produced or begun on Iona towards the end of the 8th century.2627 Around this time the island's exemplary high crosses were sculpted; these may be the first such crosses to contain the ring around the intersection that became characteristic of the "Celtic cross".26 The series of Viking raids on Iona began in 794 and, after its treasures had been plundered many times, Columba's relics were removed and divided two ways between Scotland and Ireland in 849 as the monastery was abandoned.28

Kingdom of the Isles

As the Norse domination of the west coast of Scotland advanced, Iona became part of the Kingdom of the Isles. The Norse Rex plurimarum insularum Amlaíb Cuarán died in 980 or 981 whilst in "religious retirement" on Iona.2930 Nonetheless the island was sacked twice by his successors, on Christmas night 986 and again in 987.31 Although Iona was never again important to Ireland, it rose to prominence once more in Scotland following the establishment of the Kingdom of Alba in the later 9th century. The ruling dynasty of Alba traced its origin to Iona, and the island thus became an important spiritual centre of the new kingdom, with many of its early kings buried there.26

A convent for Benedictine nuns was established in about 1208, with Bethóc, daughter of Somerled, as first prioress. The present Benedictine abbey, Iona Abbey, was built in about 1203. The monastery itself flourished until the Reformation when buildings were demolished and all but three of the 360 carved crosses destroyed.32

Kingdom of Scotland

Following the 1266 Treaty of Perth the Hebrides were restored to Scottish rule.33 An Augustine nunnery survives as a number of 13th century ruins, including a church and cloister. The nunnery continued to be active until the Reformation. By the 1760s little more of the nunnery remained standing than at present, though it is the most complete remnant of a medieval nunnery in Scotland.

Post-Union

After a visit in 1773, the English writer Samuel Johnson described the island as "fruitful", but backward and impoverished:

The inhabitants are remarkably gross, and remarkably neglected: I know not if they are visited by any minister. The island, which was once the metropolis of learning and piety, now has no school for education, nor temple for worship, only two inhabitants that can speak English, and not one that can write or read.34

He estimated the population of the village at 70 families or perhaps 350 inhabitants.

In the 19th century green-streaked marble was commercially mined in the south-east of Iona; the quarry and machinery survive.

Iona Abbey

Panoramic view
Enlargement, showing the location of the abbey and monasteries.

Iona Abbey, now an ecumenical church, is of particular historical and religious interest to pilgrims and visitors alike. It is the most elaborate and best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in the Western Isles of Scotland. Though modest in scale in comparison to medieval abbeys elsewhere in Western Europe, it has a wealth of fine architectural detail, and monuments of many periods. The 8th Duke of Argyll presented the sacred buildings and sites of the island to the Iona Cathedral trust in 1899.3

In front of the Abbey stands the 9th century St Martin's Cross, one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in the British Isles, and a replica of the 8th century St John's Cross (original fragments in the Abbey museum).

The ancient burial ground, called the Rèilig Odhrain (Eng: Oran's "burial place" or "cemetery"), contains the 12th century chapel of St Odhrán (said to be Columba's uncle), restored at the same time as the Abbey itself. It contains a number of medieval grave monuments. The abbey graveyard contains the graves of many early Scottish Kings, as well as kings from Ireland, Norway and France. Iona became the burial site for the kings of Dál Riata and their successors. Notable burials there include:

In 1549 an inventory of 48 Scottish, 8 Norwegian and 4 Irish kings was recorded. None of these graves are now identifiable (their inscriptions were reported to have worn away at the end of the 17th century). Saint Baithin and Saint Failbhe may also be buried on the island. The Abbey graveyard is also the final resting place of John Smith, the former Labour Party leader, who loved Iona. His grave is marked with an epitaph quoting Alexander Pope: "An honest man's the noblest work of God".35

Other early Christian and medieval monuments have been removed for preservation to the cloister arcade of the Abbey, and the Abbey museum (in the medieval infirmary). The ancient buildings of Iona Abbey are now cared for by Historic Scotland (entrance charge).

Present day

The island, other than the land owned by the Iona Cathedral Trust, was purchased from the Duke of Argyll by Hugh Fraser in 1979 and gifted to the National Trust for Scotland.3 In 2001 Iona's population was 12536 and by the time of the 2011 census this had grown to 177 usual residents.2 During the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by 4% to 103,702.37

Iona Community

Baile Mòr viewed from the Sound of Iona

In 1938 George MacLeod founded the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community of men and women from different walks of life and different traditions in the Christian church committed to seeking new ways of living the Gospel of Jesus in today's world. This community is a leading force in the present Celtic Christian revival.

The Iona Community runs 3 residential centres on the Isle of Iona and on Mull. These are places of welcome and engagement giving a unique opportunity to live together in community with people of every background from all over the world. Weeks at the centres often follow a programme related to the concerns of the Iona Community.

The 8 tonne Fallen Christ sculpture by Ronald Rae was permanently situated outside the MacLeod Centre in 2008.38

Transport

Visitors can reach Iona by the 10-minute ferry trip across the Sound of Iona from Fionnphort on Mull. The most common route is via Oban in Argyll and Bute. Regular ferries connect to Craignure on Mull, from where the scenic road runs 37 miles to Fionnphort. Tourist coaches and local bus services meet the ferries.

There are very few cars on the island, as they are tightly regulated and vehicular access is not allowed for non-residents, who have to leave their car in Fionnphort. Bike hire is available at the pier, and on Mull.

Iona from Mull. The Abbey lies below Dun Ì at right and the main settlement of Baile Mòr is to the left.

Media and the arts

Samuel Johnson wrote "That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins of Iona."39

"Peace of Iona" is a song written by Mike Scott that appears on the studio album Universal Hall and on the live recording Karma to Burn by The Waterboys. Iona is the setting for the song "Oran" on the 1997 Steve McDonald album Stone of Destiny.

Kenneth C. Steven published an anthology of poetry entitled Iona: Poems in 2000 inspired by his association with the island and the surrounding area.

Iona is featured prominently in the first episode ("By the Skin of Our Teeth") of the celebrated arts series Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark (1969).

Iona is the setting of Jeanne M. Dams' Dorothy Martin mystery Holy Terror of the Hebrides (1998).

The Academy Award–nominated Irish animated film The Secret of Kells is about the creation about the Book of Kells. One of the characters, Brother Aiden, is a master illuminator from Iona Abbey who had helped to illustrate the Book, but had to escape the island with it during a Viking invasion.

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  2. ^ a b National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 80–84
  4. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  5. ^ Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
  6. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. xiii
  7. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, pp. 87–90
  8. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, pp. 87–88. The name of the Gaulish god Ivavos is of similar origin, associated with the healing-well of Evaux in France.
  9. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, pp. 88–89
  10. ^ For etymology of Ì and Latinised derivative Iona, see Watson (2004), pp. 87–90.
  11. ^ a b Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 67.
  12. ^ a b c d Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 80.
  13. ^ Dwelly (1911)
  14. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, p. 88
  15. ^ Fraser (2009) p. 71. This same error turned the historical British churchman Uinniau into Uinnian (Irish: Finnian) and then eventually into the fictional Anglo-Norman saint "Ninian", and also turned Mons Graupius into the Grampians.
  16. ^ "i hi". Bokmålsordboka. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  17. ^ original (translation)
  18. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, p. 88, n. 2
  19. ^ Murray (1966) p. 81.
  20. ^ Scotland Census 2001 - anaylser
  21. ^ G. J. Potts, R. H. Hunter, A. L. Harris and F. M. Fraser (Nov 1955) "Late-orogenic extensional tectonics at the NW margin of the Caledonides in Scotland". GeoScience World. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  22. ^ Murray (1966) pp. 82–83.
  23. ^ "It's Been Emotional" ionabeachparty.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  24. ^ "Cathcart Park: Soa Island, Passage Of Tiree" RCAHMS. Retrieved 13 July 2009. The record is tentative, the press cutting the record refers to identifying "'Sheep Island', one of the Torran Rocks near Iona" but there is no other obvious contender.
  25. ^ Admonan The Life of St. Columba, Founder of Hy ed. William Reeves (1857) University Press for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society. pp. 248-50.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Koch, pp. 657–658.
  27. ^ Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2012). Pages from the Book of Kells. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B00AN4JVI0
  28. ^ BBC - Iona - A Beacon of Light Through the Dark Ages
  29. ^ Ó Corráin (1998) p. 11
  30. ^ Gregory (1881) pp. 4–6
  31. ^ Woolf (2007) pp. 217–18
  32. ^ Travel Scotland
  33. ^ Hunter (2000) pp. 110–111
  34. ^ A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, Project Gutenberg.
  35. ^ Walk Of The Month: The island of Iona The Independent 4 June 2006
  36. ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  37. ^ "Scotland's 2011 census: Island living on the rise". BBC News. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  38. ^ "The Fallen Christ on Iona". iona.org.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2009. 
  39. ^ Johnson (1775) p. 217

References

Further reading

  • Campbell, George F. (2006). The First and Lost Iona. Glasgow: Candlemas Hill Publishing. ISBN 1-873586-13-2 (and on Kindle).

External links

Coordinates: 56°20′N 6°25′W / 56.333°N 6.417°W / 56.333; -6.417








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