Celebrating Iona

Our treasures display celebrated two significant anniversaries for the island of Iona. Ran from 3 May to 7 July 2013.


Saint detail from stained glass window
St Columba window,
Iona Abbey

The Scottish island of Iona has two past events to commemorate this year:

  • 1,450 years ago St Columba arrived on Iona
  • 75 years ago the Iona Community was founded.

To join the celebrations, our treasures display from 3 May to 7 July focused on items associated with Iona that are in the National Library of Scotland's collections.

Included was the Iona Psalter, along with manuscripts which show how important Columba was to Gaelic literature. Material from the Iona Community and the Iona Press is also on display.


The early Scottish church

Columba and his followers arrived on Iona from Ireland in AD 563. Soon after landing, they founded a monastery, which became the centre of the early Scottish church.

Early in the 13th century a Benedictine abbey was founded in its place, and a new house of Augustinian canonesses was established on the island. The medieval abbey church was the Cathedral of the Bishops of the Isles until the Reformation in the 16th century.

In 1938, the Rev George MacLeod of Fuinary founded the Iona Community and re-established Iona as a centre of religious fellowship.


Collection highlights on display

We showed a selection of items from our collections that have an association with Iona and its spiritual history. Among exhibits were:

  • The Iona Psalter, a beautifully decorated volume thought to have been written in Oxford between 1180 and 1220
  • A fragment of the Iona Missal, a mass book believed to have been written in the Benedictine abbey of Iona around AD 1200. The book was taken apart, probably sometime after the Reformation, and some of its leaves put to other uses
  • A volume containing a Gaelic life of Columba composed in the 12th century and probably copied in Scotland in the 16th century
  • A Gaelic healing charm of St Columba, written down in the 15th or 16th century, but dating from earlier times.
  • A facsimile of the famous Book of Kells, which dates from around AD 806. The original is held at Trinity College, Dublin
  • Examples of books produced by the Iona Press, which operated between 1887 and 1902
  • Drawings copied by George Henry Hutton in the 18th century
  • Items relating to the setting up of the Iona Community and the restoration of the abbey under the direction of the Rev George MacLeod.



The treasures display in our George IV Bridge Building is a small sample of the millions of items in our collections. We change the display several times a year.

Past treasures displays



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