To 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. He 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.
In 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.
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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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.