Iona Nunnery

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October, 2016

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Mention Iona to anyone and they will immediately think of “Iona Abbey,”: one of the most important early Christian sites in Britain. Few will have heard of the Augustinian Nunnery which was founded around 1200 by Ranald, King of the Isles, at around the same time as the Benedictine monks were rebuilding the Abbey. The nuns followed a quiet life of contemplation and prayer. They also gave hospitality to female pilgrims to Iona. Like the Abbey, this was dissolved during the Reformation and unlike the Abbey was never rebuilt.

Although in ruins, it is one of the most complete nunnery complexes to survive. The church was built on the north side of the complex and is the best preserved part of the Nunnery with walls standing to their original height. The pilgrims would have used the nave, while the nuns used the chancel.

The cloisters and other buildings were to the south of the church. Little is left of them apart from low walls, although the refectory on the south side of the cloisters still stands almost to its original height.

Next to the Nunnery is St Ronan’s Chapel. Again, only the walls are standing. This was the parish church from 1200-1560. It is a simple, stone built rectangular building, but is normally kept locked. It was restored in the C20th.

The Nunnery is set back off the road to the Abbey, is accessible at all times and worth a quick look. The post code is PA76 6SJ and the grid reference is NM 285241.


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