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.
Iona Nunnery was built at about the same time as Iona Abbey was restored by Reginald MacDonald of Islay, one of the sons of Somerled -- a military and political leader of the Scottish Isles in the 12th century who was known as the "King of the Hebrides." Reginald intended to restore Iona to its former glory as a center of Christianity after a series of Viking raids. An Augustinian Nunnery, Reginald's sister Bethoc (Beatrice) became its first prioress. The nunnery was constructed as four ranges surrounding a cloister. A church occupied the north range of the nunnery. The nunnery was occupied until the Reformation, after which it fell to ruin.
After viewing the Additional Photos of the Nunnery 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 Iona Nunnery
Descriptive Sign at the Iona Nunnery
The Nunnery Church, Looking Across the Cloister
Another View of the Nunnery Church
Inside the Nunnery Church
Arches Inside the Nunnery Church
Chancel with Rib-Vaulted Ceiling in Nunnery
Remains of Column in Nunnery
Close-Up of Arch in Nunnery