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"Wishing to be a pilgrim for Christ", Columba left Ireland for Iona in 563. His departure from Ireland is slightly mysterious and reputedly linked to the fierce battle of Cul Drebene. It is known that Iona was given to him by Conall, the son of the Dal Riata king. The Dal Riata themselves were of Irish origin. It is said that Columba would never again look towards Ireland.

The monastery Columba established on Iona was to become a centre of mission and learning. Other religious foundations were planted including Hinba (Jura) for anchorites, Magluinge (Tiree) for penitents and Cella Duini (Annat).

Columba died in 567 but the monastery continued to flourish. In 635 a monastery was founded at Lindisfarne and Aidan sent from Iona as its leader. This connection and those with Ireland were to remain strong.

In the ninth century Viking raids threatened the community time and time again. The monks fled to Kells in Ireland in 806 although some stayed on the island, many of whom were killed in a massacre in 825.

Today on Iona we see the restored Benedictine Abbey and the ruins of the Augustinian nunnery, a reminder of the long history of Christianity on the Island. The parish church is Church of Scotland and there are both Anglican and Catholic retreat houses on the Island as well as the famous Iona Community, all representatives of the contemporary Christian cultures of the British Isles.

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