The prestige of Iona began in AD 563 when the Celtic bishop Columba and his twelve companions sailed from Ireland to found a monastery here and used it as a base from which to convert the Picts to Christianity. The monastery was attacked and burned six times by Vikings and was eventually abandoned in favour of Kells in Ireland.
lona was occupied again in 1203 as a Benedictine monastery, but it fell into ruin during the Reformation when symbols of the Roman Catholic faith came under attack.
The oldest surviving building is St Oran’s chapel (c. 1080), and the ornately carved St Martin’s Cross (10th century) stands outside the cathedral.
Today lona is a sacred place visited by well over 200,000 pilgrims every year.