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Beacon of ChristianityIona is a holy isle, an enduring symbol of Christianity in Scotland. St Columba and his followers came here from Ireland in AD 563 and founded a monastery that became the heart of the early Scottish Church. St Columba’s fame attracted pilgrims to Iona from the 7th century onwards. The island also served as a burial ground for important and holy people from near and far.
Columba’s monasteryThe site Columba chose for his monastery now seems isolated and rugged. But it enabled him to maintain close links with his fellow Scots of Dal Riata – an ancient territory embracing parts of what is now north-east Ireland and western Scotland.
A place of pilgrimageBy the mid-12th century Iona was under the patronage of Somerled, ‘King of the Isles’. He built St Oran’s Chapel as a family burial place. His son Reginald refounded the old monastery as a Benedictine abbey. The church was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and built on a cruciform plan. The cloister lay to the north of the church. The chapter house was centrally placed along the east range, with living and dining areas above it and in the north range.