graveyard of the kings

Iona AbbeyIf ever there was holy ground, it surely is to be found on a small island of striking beauty and breathtaking light in the Ross of Mull: Iona, burial-place of the kings.

towards MullTo many Iona is an overcoming experience. It was here that Christianity made its way into Scotland. Irish monasteries have existed for centuries on this small, rocky Hebridean island. The Irish Saint Columba, monk and religious legend, is assumed to have founded the first in 563. Iona AbbeyHe sent his fellow monks to other places in Scotland, where they founded other monasteries and the Christian faith slowly replaced the old customs and ideologies of the Picts. Iona always remained the centre of the Christian monastic system in Scotland, the spiritual centre of a Nation.

Isle of MullIn the 8th century a vast number of Celtic high crosses have been carved on Iona: Beautiful pieces of art and intricate symbols of faith. Unfortunately, more than 200 were destroyed and thrown into the sea by the Protestants during the Reformation. It would have been a sight indeed, 200 Celtic crosses on the lush green grass against the vivid blue skies of the Hebrides.

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Iona has been part of the Kingdom of The Isles, and because the early Kings of Alba traced their origin to Iona, the Kings of Alba were subsequently buried there. The number of rulers that followed in death is astonishing. A 16th century inventory counts 8 Norwegian, 4 Irish and 48 Scottish kings amongst them Kenneth I, Donald II, Duncan I and Macbeth.

Sadly none of these graves has remained on this ancient burial ground.

In the restored remains of the 12th century chapel of St Odhran, a number of medieval ornamental stones are displayed, beautiful enough to grace the graves of kings.

Iona is an island of purity and peace. And it must have felt like that for many centuries: A worthy place for a king’s final rest.

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