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