Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Iona II - The Christianization of Scotland via Columba

St. Columba, previously of Ireland, founded a Celtic monastery on Iona in 563. An educated nobleman and priest, Columba had founded several monasteries before running into some problems (the stories, not surprisingly, conflict with one another) in Ireland and departing for another coast. The Iona monastery gained prominence, sending missionary monks to Scotland, England, and the continent, and functioning as the center of the Irish church until a 664 schism. (The primary dispute had to do with the dating of Easter, as so many of these things do, and resulted in the decline of the Celtic church and the ascendancy of the Roman church in the British Isles.)

The Vikings showed up in the 700s, the 800s, and the 900s, destroying the monastery in 986. The famous
Book of Kells illuminated manuscript was probably produced at Iona in the 800s (too late to have been written by Columba himself, as tradition long held) and removed to Ireland, where it remains at Trinity College Dublin, during the Viking raids. Iona itself would rise in another incarnation in the 1200s; in the meantime it would become the burial ground of kings from Scandanavia and Scotland, including Macbeth himself.


Kathryn said...

Do you have a book recommendation? My mind is teeming with questions. The church in the town where my parents live is named after St. Columba. When did St. Patrick fit into the Celtic church history?

I have spent much more time in the last few years on the early church -- first 100 or so years. I also read a book about the Spanish church in the 15th century. There is so much to learn.

Anonymous said...

I haven't done Iona, only Lindisfarne, but it was truly special. Even the light was differnt. Can't explain it, but it was ands often is, we were told.


Russell Smith said...

A great book about Iona and the Irish church is How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

I'm jealous that you're going to Iona. There's a story that says that Columba was exiled to the island because he started a war in Ireland -- how did he start the war? He stole a book from his mentor.