Iona, Iona Abbey Museum
Cross(S), Cross Slab(S), Museum, Shrine
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- Council Argyll And Bute
- Parish Kilfinichen And Kilvickeon
- Former Region Strathclyde
- Former District Argyll And Bute
- Former County Argyll
Standing to the east of the eastern range of the Benedictine abbey, this single-storied building is thought to have been the abbey Infirmary. Having been comprehensively restored in 1964, the building now serves as the abbey museum, housing a large variety of architectural fragments from the abbey, and Christian and Medieval carved stones and grave slabs.
RCAHMS 1982; 1995
NM 22 SE 5.01 28709 24546
The following early medieval sculptured stones are housed in the Museum. The locations given below were revised in 1998, but are subject to further alteration. The sites of a number of crosses of uncertain date, recorded in place-names or other traditional sources, are listed in Inventory of Argyll, 4, p.179. These included crosses dedicated to St Brendan and St Adomnan.
(Iona 1) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.49m by 0.24m, bearing a Latin cross cut with a flat-bottomed groove.
(3) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Irregularly-shaped boulder, 0.29m by 0.28m, bearing a Latin cross with triangular foot.
(5) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Kite-shaped slab, 0.64m by 0.39m, bearing a ringed Latin cross.
(6) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Roughly tapered slab, 0.64m by 0.22m, bearing a Greek cross within a circle.
(7) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Part of a roughly-trimmed slab, 0.47m by 0.19m, bearing a Latin cross with triangular terminals.
(8) Abbey Museum, S wall. Pillar-stone, 0.93m by 0.28m, bearing on face (a) a Latin cross with triangular terminals and on face (b) a simple cross.
(9) Abbey Museum, N wall; found re-used near the manse, and thought to be from the former burial-ground of Cill Chainnech (NM22SE 33) (J Drummond 1881, pl.2, 2). Kite-shaped boulder, 0.50m by 0.32m, bearing a Latin cross with triangular upper and side terminals.
(11) Abbey Museum, W gallery; found in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10) in 1976. Slab, broken at the foot, 0.50m by 0.28m wide. On each face is a Latin cross, the triangular upper and side terminals being sunken, and the arms intersecting in a lozenge. On face (b) there are traces of a raised margin.
(12) Abbey Museum, E wall. Part of a slab, 0.58m by 0.48m, bearing a lightly-pecked Latin cross with forked terminals.
(16) Abbey Museum, S wall. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.86m by 0.40m, which bears a Latin cross of 'jewelled' type, with forked terminals and a circular hollow in each armpit.
(18) Abbey Museum, W end. Broken slab, 0.75m by 0.25m. Initially it was carved on face (a) in false relief with two conjoined Latin crosses, the upper one apparently having two transoms. Subsequently it was converted into an upright slab, a sunken Greek cross being cut on each face.
(19) Abbey Museum, W gallery; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Tapered slab, 0.77m by 0.29m, which originally bore, within a rectangular frame, a linear Latin cross having double volutes at the ends of the upper arm and side-arms and a leaf-shaped depression at the foot. Subsequently a simple sunken cross was carved on the same face, largely obliterating the earlier cross.
(20) Abbey Museum, E wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Roughly rectangular slab lacking part of one edge, 0.73m by 0.35m. It bears on each face a shallow sunken cross with slightly splayed arms.
(21) Abbey Museum, store. Irregular fragment, 0.32m by 0.26m, bearing a sunken equal-armed cross.
(24) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.64m by 0.30m, bearing a lightly-pecked Latin cross within a circle drawn from a centre at the intersection of the cross-arms.
(25) Abbey Museum, W gallery; discovered in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10) in 1978. Incomplete slab, 0.58m by 0.57m, bearing the worn outline of a Latin cross with rounded armpits.
(26) Abbey Museum, S wall and detached fragment on E window-sill. Rectangular slab, 2.05m by 0.98m, damaged round the edges and broken into three pieces, all much worn. A vertical incised line forms two compartments, each containing two Latin crosses placed foot to foot. Each cross has a central cup-shaped depression and a splayed foot, but they differ in detail as shown, one being ringed.
(27) Abbey Museum, E end. Rough tapered slab, 0.80m by 0.27m, bearing a Latin cross.
(30) Abbey Museum, N wall. Upper part of a rectangular slab of sandstone, 0.71m by 0.30m, lacking the top left corner. It bears a Latin cross in low relief, with beaded edges and rounded armpits.
(31) Abbey Museum, N wall, and detached fragment in store; found during excavations in front of 'St Columba's Shrine' in 1976. Fragment of a dressed slab of sandstone, 0.55m by 0.52m. It has borne a long-shafted cross within an incised margin. The shaft has beaded edges and its centre is slightly sunk. To the right an incised inscription reads: [OROIT] DO ERGUS ('A prayer for Fergus'). Professor K H Jackson suggested an 8th-century date.
(32) Abbey Museum, E window-sill. Part of a water-worn boulder, 0.28m by 0.23m, bearing a Latin cross in relief within an oval frame. The arms are slightly splayed, and their ends and the centre of the cross-head are marked by small drilled holes.
(33) Abbey Museum, E wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Upper part of a slab, 0.83m by 0.57m, bearing in low relief a cross-potent with a square central expansion. The arms are slightly curved and splayed.
(34) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Upper part of a slab, 0.61m by 0.39m, bearing a ringed Latin cross with square armpits and slightly splayed arms; the spaces between the cross and the ring are slightly sunk.
*(34A) Abbey Museum, W end. Fragment of the upper right part of a rectangular graveslab of mica-schist, identified in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10) in 1993. It was found near a newly dug grave W of St Oran's Chapel, but there was no evidence that it had been deeply buried. The fragment measures 0.46m by 0.37m and 50mm in thickness, and its original width at the top was about 0.58m. A continuous groove formed a 60mm margin which enclosed an outline ringed cross with broad curved and slightly sunken armpits. Its original span was about 0.46m, and the top arm, which extended to the margin, was 80mm wide. The surface is much flaked and cracked, and the lower edge of the right arm is not preserved. The top right quadrant of the ring is the only one to be fully preserved, although the stump of the lower right one is also identifiable. The ring is unusually narrow, measuring only about 20mm across.
(42) Abbey Museum, N wall. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.75m by 0.38m, bearing a lightly-pecked ringed cross with rounded armpits. The shaft rises from a square base and the upper arm terminates in a rectangular bar.
(44) Abbey Museum, store. Part of a thin slab, 0.36m by 0.26m. On face (a) is a ringed cross with rounded armpits and a central depression, having an outer channel flanking the upper and side-arms. On face (b) there is a sunken Latin cross.
(45) Abbey Museum, N wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Roughly rectangular slab, 1.53m by 0.45m. It bears a ringed cross with rounded and sunken armpits whose shaft rises from a circle. On the right is the inscription: OR(OIT) AR ANMAIN EOGAIN ('A prayer for the soul of Eogan'). Professor K H Jackson suggested an 8th-century date.
(46) Abbey Museum, N wall; formerly incorporated in the paving in front of 'St Columba's Shrine'. Roughly rectangular slab, 1.38m by 0.64m, lacking the top and broken into three fragments. A ringed cross, having rounded and sunken armpits and a plain foot, is flanked by two inscriptions. That to the right reads: [O]ROIT AR ANM[AIN] / FLAINN ('A prayer for the soul of Flann'). The second inscription is a variant and reads: OR(OIT) AR ANMA[IN F]LAIND. Professor K H Jackson suggested an 8th-century date.
(50) Abbey Museum, E wall; formerly incorporated in the paving in front of 'St Columba's Shrine'. Irregular slab, 1.05m by 0.52m, bearing a ringed cross with rounded sunken armpits, the ends of the upper arm and shaft being open.
(51) Abbey Museum, N wall: formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Slab, 1.64m by 0.53m, bearing a ringed cross with rounded sunken armpits, the circle being slightly recessed. Except for a narrow strip at the left, where the guide-line for the intended edge is still visible, the slab has been trimmed to a roughly rectangular shape.
(53) Abbey Museum, N wall. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.60m by 0.36m, bearing on face (a) a ringed cross with beaded edges and rounded sunken armpits, the shaft being open at the foot. On face (b) is an outline Latin cross, also open at the foot, having small circular depressions at the armpits.
(56) Abbey Museum, E wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Incomplete slab, 1.02 m by 0.51m, bearing the remains of a ringed cross with rounded, slightly sunken armpits and a beaded border. The lines defining the tapering shaft rise from volutes, and it is open at the foot.
(57) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Roughly rectangular slab, 0.76m by 0.69m, split vertically into two pieces. It bears a ringed cross with rounded armpits having semicircular bosses on the inner side of the ring (cf. no.86). The cross has a beaded margin and the shaft terminates at the foot in a semicircular expansion. (59) Abbey Museum, S wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). One of the slabs of the composite cross-base no.99, trimmed for re-use as a graveslab and bearing a ringed cross with rounded sunken armpits and bosses attached to the inside of the ring.
(60) Abbey Museum, E wall; found about 1870 some 140m NW of Cladh an Disirt (NM22SE 7). Water-worn boulder, 0.48m by 0.40m, popularly known as 'St Columba's Pillow'. It bears a ringed cross-potent with a square expansion at the centre, the spaces between the cross and the ring being slightly sunk.
(61) Abbey Museum, S wall. Top corner of a dressed sandstone cross-slab, 0.32m by 0.22m. On the front (a), within a raised border, there was a ringed cross; the upper arm is bordered by a bold roll-moulding and has a plain boss at the centre, while the ring is decorated with a row of pellets. The armpits and the spandrels between the cross and its border were deeply sunk. On the back (b) there has been a cross in low relief, with a beaded border but no ring.
*(63) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Slab bearing a ringed Latin cross in false relief, recorded in St Oran's Chapel by Drummond and Macalister. It was subsequently built into one of the concrete plinths used to display carved stones in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10), and was rediscovered when this was dismantled in 1990 (information from Mr A MacKechnie, Fionnphort). The slab is of mica-schist, much worn, and measures 0.65m by 0.29m, the length being 0.14m less than was recorded by Macalister. The beaded outline of the cross is rather irregular and the left and top arms are expanded whereas the right arm is rectangular. The ring is narrow and very heavily worn. (J Drummond 1881, pl.2, 4; R A S Macalister 1914, 423, no.22).
(64) Abbey Museum, N wall; formerly at the Nunnery (NM22SE 14). Dressed slab of sandstone in two pieces, 1.22m long by 0.36m wide. In false relief within a plain raised margin is a ringed cross with rounded armpits, having a small central boss. The shaft and arms have been channelled to emphasise the outline.
(68) Abbey Museum, N wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Rectangular slab, 1.34m by 0.75m. Within a plain border there is a double-ribbon cross interlaced with a square ring at the centre and having triquetra terminals, three of them double-beaded, interlaced with figure-of-eight knots. The spaces between the ribbons are slightly sunk. The surface is much worn, but in one of the quarters there are traces of three groups of letters.
(69) Abbey Museum, S wall; it was found in 1962 close to Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10), and a smaller fragment was recorded in 1877. One half of a rectangular slab which, when complete, measured 1.11m by about 0.77m. The decoration is a crude copy of that on no.68, consisting of a double-ribbon cross interlaced with a square ring at the centre and having knotted terminals, but with no beading. In the border of the longer side is incised an inscription in Norse runes:
k[?a]li auluis sunr la?i stan ?insi ubir fukl bru?ur [sin]
'Kali, son of Olvir, laid this stone over Fugl his brother'
It has an initial saltire cross, and smaller crosses separate the individual words. The border has broken off at the end, but there was space for the final word sin ('his'). Most of the outline of the cross has been defined by pocking, but some areas have been finished with a knife-like tool similar to that used for cutting the runes, and the decoration and inscription appear to be contemporaneous. The spelling conventions used suggest that the slab dates to the late 10th or 11th century.
(70) Abbey Museum, N wall; formerly at the Nunnery (NM22SE 14). Slab with damaged corners, 1.16m by 0.58m. It bears a ringed cross with rounded and sunken armpits and expanded foot, whose arms display the double curves seen on St John's Cross (NM22SE 4.05). The cross is outlined by a bead-moulding and ornamented with interlace, knotted in the arms and plaited or looped at the centre, but the ring, which is slightly sunk, is undecorated. Similar loops and 'Stafford Knots' (Allen and Anderson 1903, RA 551, 601) are common in Scandinavian-influenced sculpture elsewhere in Britain, and a 10th-century date is probable.
(75) Abbey Museum, S wall. Part of the head and shaft of a cruciform stone with narrow rounded armpits, 0.60m high and about 0.42m in original span. It is carved from dark hornblende-schist, probably derived from the Outer Hebrides.
(76) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Arm and part of the head of a cruciform stone with rounded armpits, carved from hornblende-schist similar to no.75.
(77) Abbey Museum, store. Part of the disc-head and tapered shaft of a slab, 0.19m in width below the head and 0.30m in original diameter. On face (a) the head bears a cross-of-arcs with sunk interspaces whose beaded border forms a triquetra in the top of the shaft. The other face (b) appears to have borne a similar cross within a double border whose outer member continues down the shaft as double-beaded interlace.
(86) Abbey Museum, N wall. Upper part of a ringed cross-head of sandstone, 0.75m across the arms and 0.17m in thickness, much weathered. The rounded armpits are pierced, and on both faces the edges of the ring and cross are beaded. There are half-rolls on the inside of the ring, a feature of many Irish crosses of 10th-century and later date, but no other visible ornament.
(87) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Part of the head of a ringed sandstone cross, much weathered; about 0.48m in original diameter and 0.15m thick. The armpits are sunk but not completely pierced. On both faces the cross, but not the ring, has had an edge-moulding; the only other visible ornament is a central boss on one face.
(87A) Abbey Museum, S wall. Worn sandstone fragment, 0.47m by 0.33m, which preserves one arm, 0.09m in length, and part of the disc of a cross-head, trimmed flat on the back. It appears to have been comparable in size to no.86, but the ring was not pierced.
(88) Abbey Museum, N wall. Head and shaft of a much-worn ringed cross of sandstone; it is broken at the top of the shaft and part of the head is missing. The span is 0.70m and the overall height about 1.53m. On one face there is a cross-potent with a square central expansion, having a margin of close-set pellets between two bead-mouldings which continues onto the shaft. The spaces between the cross and the ring are only slightly sunk, and it is possible that the other face was never completed since its surface is roughly tooled and undecorated apart from a low central 0.24m boss. The top surface of the upper arm bears traces of a finial of rectangular plan. Both faces of the shaft bear blank panels framed by the pelleted margin described above, which at the bottom returns above a projecting 'collar' and pointed butt. The shaft seems proportionately too short for the cross-head, and it is possible that the butt was designed to be tenoned into a lower section, leaving the collar projecting as on certain Irish crosses.
(92) Abbey Museum, store. Sandstone cross-arm, 0.32m by 0.28m and 65mm thick. Its outline is circular, with projecting lugs at the outer corners, and one face bears a hexafoil in false relief within a beaded border. The opposite face is undecorated, and it is possible that the surface has split off. This cross was probably of 11th or 12th-century date.
(93) Abbey Museum, store. Fragment of a sandstone cross-arm, 0.23m by 0.15m and 0.13m thick. On one face it bears a plain roll-moulding containing interlace, while the other face is plain except for an incised margin.
(94) Abbey Museum, store. Fragment of the head of a narrow cross or cross-slab, 0.25m in length and breadth and 40mm in thickness. On one face (b) is part of the head of a ringed cross, with beaded edges and rounded sunken armpits; the ring is decorated with a Z-fret and the cross with double-beaded plaitwork. The other face (a) displays a similar cross, including vertical interlace of Scandinavian character, but the ring has been almost obliterated. The material used was probably from the Isle of Man, and the carving resembles certain 10th-century Norse slabs on that island.
(95) Abbey Museum, S wall. Lower part of the shaft of a free-standing cross or narrow cross-slab, 0.98m (excluding the butt) by 0.08m in thickness, and tapering from 0.42m at base to 0.33m at the top. Face (a) is covered with irregular double-beaded plaitwork, and below to the left is a dragonesque creature whose tail is knotted round its body. The other face (c) has been heavily damaged, but at the foot there is a ship containing several men, some of whom appear to be holding spears and swords, and possibly hauling on oars, and above them on the left there is a larger figure of a smith with a hammer and other tools. At the centre is an almost-vertical pole with an expansion at the top, probably not intended as the mast of the ship and perhaps related to the smith's tools. To the right of the ship is an animal with a long bushy tail, and further up the shaft is a curving contoured band, perhaps belonging to a ribbon-beast. Faint traces of key-pattern and diagonal plaitwork can be seen along each edge of the stone, and at the top of one edge is a small serpentine creature resembling a dolphin. The cross is undoubtedly Scandinavian in character, but the inturned spiral terminals to the arris rolls are rare on the Isle of Man but fairly common in Anglo-Scandinavian cross-shafts in E Yorkshire.
(99) Abbey Museum, S wall and detached fragment at E wall; formerly in Reilig Odhrain (NM22SE 10). Composite lid of a box-like base like that of St John's Cross (NM22SE 4.05), 1.72m by 1.2l m and 0.13m thick. The two slabs were equally rebated to form a socket 0.62m by 0.3m, and one end bears cramp-holes with barred terminals. One slab was trimmed for re-use as a graveslab (no.59) and the other pierced with a socket 0.27m by 0.13m, presumably to support a smaller cross. A basin-shaped hollow used for the rotation of stones has broken a corner of the latter slab.
(102) Abbey Museum, W gallery. Damaged rectangular slab, 0.74m by 0.47m by 0.08m thick, pierced by a socket measuring 0.29m by 0.06m which is placed to one side of the long axis.
(104) Post (B) outside E wall of Abbey Museum, and other fragments in Abbey Church, S transept (NM22SE 5). Six fragments of contorted garnet-schist, including: (A) the upper part of a 0.22m square post with bevelled apex, bearing key-ornament and, on two faces, double mouldings; (B) the lower part of a square post with massive butt, having two adjacent faces slotted and rebated and the others panelled between double mouldings; and (C) a fragment of a similar post with single mouldings. These may have belonged to a corner-post shrine, a platform supporting a heavy wooden shrine, or an open kerb round a grave. Three slabs of rectangular section (D, E, F) are each wrought with similar key-ornament and mouldings on one narrow edge and traces of a rebate on the other.
(108) Outside E wall of Abbey Museum. Block of sandstone, 0.49m by 0.50m and 0.23m thick. The vertical central portion of one face is recessed to a depth of 30mm between two panels, each framed by arris-rolls and an inner bead-moulding. This item may have derived from an Early Christian building, possibly from an anta. The width is the same as that of the antae of 'St Columba's Shrine'.
I Fisher 2001.
External Reference (28 October 2011)
Scheduled as element within 'The monument known as St Mary's Abbey, Iona, monastic settlement [comprising] the remains of the large early historic monastic settlement founded by St Columba in AD 563, St Martin's Cross, and parts of medieval buildings associated with the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary founded around AD 1200.'
Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 28 October 2011.
Watching Brief (7 August 2012)
NM 2871 2454 A watching brief was undertaken on 7 August 2012 during minor excavations associated with the construction of temporary stone stores at Iona Abbey. Two trenches were excavated in the NE corner of the Abbey complex, adjacent to the infirmary which now serves as a museum. The ground disturbed consisted of recent landscaping material, and there were no finds or features of archaeological significance.
Archive: RCAHMS (intended)
Funder: Historic Scotland
David Murray, Kirkdale Archaeology
See also NM22SE 5 and for replica cross NM22SE 4 05.