7.3 St Oran’s Chapel and Graveyard

A cobbled track runs between St Martin's Cross and the wall of the graveyard. This is the only visible portion of 'The Street of the Dead', a medieval pilgrimage route used for funeral processions.

St Oran’s Chapel is the oldest ecclesiastical building on Iona, and dates from the 12th century. It may have been built as a family tomb for the MacDonalds, a great ruling family of the period.

The Chapel was in ruins by the early 17th century, and was restored in 1957.

Street of the Dead © Anticath

Reilig Odhrain - Oran’s Graveyard - predates the chapel, and one tradition holds that it was an early burial place of kings, but evidence for this is scarce. West Highland Chiefs adn warriors were certainly buried here, and their graveslabs may be seen in the Museum and Cloisters.

Oran may have been a relative of Colmcille, but he was not listed by Adomnan as one of the Saint's first companions on Iona. Only much later medieval legend links Oran with this graveyard.

Orans Chapel and Graveyard © Jim Brodie

Many of the graveslabs found here are now in the Abbey’s museum.

 
 
   
  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.1 High Crosses and Abbey

    Colmcille arrived on Iona in 563 having left Derry in Ireland. According to tradition, Colmcille looked for a place to build his monastery where he would not be able to see his homeland - hence his choice of Iona.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.2 Vallum, Abbey and Cloister

    The Vallum marked the boundary of the Colmcille’s monastery on Iona. It is formed by two embankments on either side of a deep ditch. This raised ground is 335 metres long by 152 metres wide.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.3 St Oran’s Chapel and Graveyard

    A cobbled track runs between St Martin's Cross and the wall of the graveyard. This is the only visible portion of 'The Street of the Dead', a medieval pilgrim route used for funeral processions.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.4 The Nunnery/An Eaglais Dhubh

    The Nunnery was built at about the same time as the Benedictine Abbey - in the 13th century - by Reginald, son of Somerled, Lord of the Isles. His sister Bethoc was the first prioress.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.5 Martyr's Bay

    Martyrs Bay is just south of the village centre, beyond St Ronan’s Bay. It is named in commemoration of the 68 monks of Iona slaughtered by the VIking raiders who attacked the island in 806.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.6 Hill of the Angels

    According to Colmcille’s biographer, Adomnán, Cnoc nan Aingeal is where the saint was seen meeting with the angels.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.7 St Columba's Bay

    Colmcille arrived in Iona from Argyll in 563 where he had been seeking permission to build a monastery on land belonging to the ruling clan - the Dál Riata.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.
     

    7.8 The Hermit's Cell

    Today all that remains of the Hermit’s Cell is a rough stone foundation of an oval hut which would have been made of timber or turf. An entrance faces southwest to capture the most daylight.