Abbey Tour


We arrived on Saturday afternoon, and the next day was Pentecost Sunday. The Abbey Church was decked out in yellow and orange streamers and we had a joyous service. Even though not everybody there was a Methodist, the singing was quite good, not to mention enthusiastic.

After our lunch we had more orientation, and had our tasks for the week assigned. Each of us was assigned to either Team A, B, or C. Every team had a list of tasks to do daily, and thus we were able to participate actively in the life of the community. All teams were assigned a meal for which they were responsible for setting, serving and washing up. In addition, each had specific duties, such as cleaning or food preparation. I ended up peeling potatoes and onions almost every day, while Ann was responsible for cleaning six toilets.

Over the next two days we got tours of and lectures on the Abbey, the grounds, history and the Iona Community. The history part you can read about. This is a bit of what we saw:

When you enter the Abbey from the west entrance, you are higher than the altar. Sally the sacristan led us on the tour.

The baptismal font stands squarely in the middle of the entry.

Off to the left and up a short stairway is a small door. If you look closely, you will see the words "stand fast" carved into it. The watchman sat in a small room and challenged strangers approaching the Abbey.

This watchperson, however, does not seem to be taking her job too seriously.

Walking through the nave, you can find a couple of these designs on the floor. They are historic, but no one knows the meaning of them.

The capitals in the south aisle are interesting---worth enlarging for a better look.

The base of these arches mark the former floor level of the chancel---about the level of the heads of the people in the picture. Look again at the 1st picture in this set, and notice that the entry level is higher than the altar.

Close to the altar is the requisite dead bishop. There's some interesting story about this one, but I can't remember. Let me know if you do.

The leader's chair has this misericorde --- not historic --- with symbols of the community and its history.

The altar was decked out for Pentecost.

Outside is St. Martin's cross, which has stood in this location since the 9th century. This picture will enlarge to allow you to view the detail and pictoral stories carved into the cross. It was meant as a devotional icon for pilgrims.

St. John's cross (a reproduction) stands in front of St. Colomba's chapel which formerly housed his relics. They were removed some time in the past, but it still is a place of meditation.

Cloisters allowed the inhabitants of the Abbey to be outside while still being within the walls. They served as a place for contemplation as well as exercise.

In the center of the cloisters is a statue of the Virgin, here being expounded upon by the warden of the Abbey.

The sculpture was done by a Lithuanian Jew who lived in Paris, and has been both an inspiration and a source of controversy. I'd be interested in knowing what you think about it.

The cloisters were restored between 1938 and the 1960's. Numerous capitals are newly carved, including this one.

Snowdrops are depicted here. They are small white flowers that bloom in late January in England, and give hope that spring will come soon.

Just south of the Abbey grounds are the ruins of a medieval convent. Unlike the Abbey, they have not been restored at all, but do house a lovely garden.

On to our trip to the Island of Staffa