None the less, Iona's importance as a religious centre continued, and began to attract the newly converted Norse settlers of the Hebrides. Two Norse cross slabs are now housed in the Iona museum, one bearing an inscription in Norse runes, another bearing a scene from Norse legend. In 980, the powerful king of Viking Dublin, Olaf Cuarán, died on pilgrimage to the island. This was an up-and-down relationship, however, as six years later, a raiding party from the Northern Isles slaughtered the elders of the monastery and the abbot.
The wider influence of Iona monks can be seen as far afield as Carolingian Europe. Dicuil, a cosmographer who wrote a description of the world c.825 in the court of Charles the Bald, probably came from Iona, and he describes other Iona monks ranging as far north as the Faroes and as far south as Egypt. The martyrdom of Blathmac, son of Flann, defending the relics of Columba from Viking raiders in 825 caught the imagination of Walahfrid Strabo, based in the monastery of Reichenau on Lake Constance. One of the 10th-cent. heads of the Columban communities, Mugrón (965–81), who appears to have been partially based in Scotland, was a devotional writer of some skill.
The 11th cent. was marred by such incidents as the loss of some of Columba's relics on a journey back to Ireland from Iona (in 1034), and slaying of the abbot by a rival, the son of a former abbot of Kells in 1070. None the less, Scottish kings, according to tradition, continued to be buried there, and Margaret, wife of Malcolm III, king of the Scots, held the monastery in favour.
In the next century, it again became the religious hub of a new island-centred power-base. Somerled mac Gille-Brigde, the powerful Argyll sea-lord whose descendants became the Lords of the Isles, attempted in 1164 to lure the head of the Columban communities back to Iona. He failed, but the building of a new Benedictine monastery in 1204, followed by an Augustinian nunnery, spelled the return of Iona's fortunes. Closely linked to the Lords of the Isles from the 14th cent. onwards, and the seat intermittently of the bishop of the Isles, Iona in the later Middle Ages was a great centre of sculpture. The present church on the island dates substantially to the 15th-cent. renewal programme, and displays the skills and patronage then available. Only with the forfeiture of the lordship in 1493 and the Reformation did Iona's decline set in in earnest.
Thomas Owen Clancy
Iona (īōn´ə) [Irish Ioua=island] or Icolmkill [Irish,=island of Columba of the church], island (1985 est. pop. 267), 3.5 mi (5.6 km) long and 1.5 mi (2.4 km) wide, Argyll and Bute, NW Scotland, one of the Inner Hebrides. Separated from the island Mull by the Sound of Iona, it is hilly, with shell beaches. Farming, livestock grazing, and fishing are carried on, but tourism is the main industry. The island is famous as the early center of Celtic Christianity. St. Columba (see Columba, Saint.), with his companions, landed there from Ireland in 563. They founded a monastery, which was burned by the Danes in the 8th or 9th cent. Iona was a bishopric from 838 to 1098. In 1203 a Benedictine monastery, of which there are remains, was established. The cathedral, formerly the Church of St. Mary, dates from the early 13th cent. The cemetery of St. Oran's Church contains the graves of many monarchs of Scotland, Ireland, Norway, and France. A group called the Iona Community (est. 1938), dedicated to reviving the spirit of Celtic Christianity, has restored many ancient buildings.