Author(s)MacDonald, Janet C.
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AbstractThis study investigates a range of ways in which the late medieval monastery of Iona interacted with the region of Argyll and the Isles: as the owner of churches and lands; as the centre of major saints’ cults; and as the focus of a school of sculpture. A major part of the research is a detailed examination of the local context of each of these links with Iona. The research project focuses on the monastery of Iona in the period c1203-c1575. These dates have been chosen specifically because they encompass virtually the entire period of occupation by the Benedictine monks, and because they apply to the most comprehensive surviving documents that relate to Iona and its landholdings. At the time of the introduction of the Benedictines to Iona, papal protection was sought, and a papal bull of December 1203 records Iona’s holdings at this period. Many of these holdings remained in Iona’s possession until the Reformation, soon after which time a rental was drawn up listing the abbot’s temporal and spiritual wealth, along with that of the bishop of the Isles, who was by this time also commendator of Iona abbey. These documents serve comprehensively to illustrate the fortunes of the monastery over the later Middle Ages. Iona’s acquisitions of lands and churches, and what subsequently became of these possessions, took place in the wider context of the changing political scene. For this reason, the political and social links between Iona, the Lordship of the Isles and other powerful local kindreds, such as the Mackinnons, MacLeans and Campbells, are explored. Iona’s relations with other religious houses in Argyll is also considered, particularly in relation to the potential transfer of lands between monastic houses. The monastery’s fortunes varied over the course of its existence, depending largely on who held the position of abbot, and on the relationships with powerful local magnates, as well as with other ecclesiastical bodies. It held estates and churches over a wide area, and although it gained many possessions, some were also lost to other houses, and to secular powers. There are many other churches and lands within Iona’s sphere of influence, but the nature of the evidence precludes drawing any firm conclusions about how many, if any, of them, were founded or owned by the monastery. Regarding Iona’s role as a centre of the cults of saints Columba and Adamnán, the local preponderance of churches dedicated to these and other saints important to Iona is considered in an effort to try to establish how widespread they are, and the longevity of these dedications. Looking also at Iona’s lands and the dedications of their churches, an attempt is made to discern any patterns; for example, to whom are the churches on Iona’s lands dedicated, and when? If churches on lands gifted to Iona had an existing dedication, is this likely to have been changed? Iona’s wider ecclesiastical associations are also discussed: the monastery held an ambivalent relationship with the papacy, and was considered to be under Rome’s protection, but often failed to pay its dues to the Curia, pleading poverty and the expense of having to travel such a long distance ‘from the ends of the habitable earth’. Due to the fragmentary nature of the existing documentary record, an interdisciplinary approach has been taken, involving the integration of evidence from historical sources, archaeology and place-names. One of the main fruits of the research has been the production of a gazetteer of Iona’s lands and churches held throughout the later Middle Ages. It is hoped that this may prove a useful tool in further research. Janet MacDonald Departments of Celtic and History University of Glasgow
MacDonald, Janet C. (2010) Iona's local associations in Argyll and the Isles, c1203-c1575. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.