An island's name associated with the Irish monk Colum Cille, also known as St Columba, who founded a monastery here in AD 563. In and after Columba's lifetime, Iona was hugely influential in spreading Christianity throughout Scotland and England. Today the island still attracts pilgrims, both religious and secular. While some are attracted by the historic remains, others are still active in the Iona Community, a 20th-century religious group committed to working with the poor and destitute.
At the heart of the Celtic monastery stood several 'high crosses', of which this one, St Martin's Cross, dates to about AD 750-800. They are key monuments in the evolution of Early Christian sculptural art in Scotland and Ireland, and feature geometric designs together with biblical scenes. Originally they would have been highlighted with colored pigments to enhance their effect - today we see them almost as they emerged from the carver's chisel over 1000 years ago.
Behind the cross stands the church of the Benedictine Abbey which was founded about AD 1200, and which replaced the Celtic community. Eventually abandoned after the Reformation in the mid-16th century, the church became increasingly ruined until it was rescued from picturesque decay in the early 20th century and restored to its original use. Together with its accompanying monastic cloister, the cluster of associated churches, chapels and ancient burial places, and the separate medieval nunnery, this small island still radiates the ideals of its founding father, St. Columba.