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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

The Columba We Deserve: The Archaeology of a Saint’s Cult on Iona in Long-Term Perspective

14th November 2017, 17:30, PGL Learning Centre, Palace Green, Dr Adrian Maldonado (University of Glasgow)

followed by a drinks reception at the Cafe, Palace Green Library.

This event is part of the IMEMS Religious Diversity seminar series for 2017/18.

Please note that places for this event will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book your place click here

Abstract: The monastic site of Iona Abbey, Argyll & Bute, founded in AD 563 by St Columba grew into one of Britain and Ireland’s major centres of intellectual and artistic innovation, and remained an important spiritual and political centre throughout the later medieval period. Today it is one of Scotland’s iconic visitor attractions and has attracted centuries of antiquarian and archaeological interest. The author is currently involved with the latest programme of excavation and reinterpretation on the site, and with new work comes new questions. The question of dating of the pilgrimage activity on the site is now central to our concerns, as it appears it is precociously early and structured the layout of the site through several re-foundations and building campaigns through the years despite numerous changes to its social, political and spiritual status. How was the cult of St Columba emphasised or de-emphasised during these changes? To paraphrase the famous saying by Jacquetta Hawkes, did every age get the Columba it deserved? This paper will summarise the material evidence for pilgrimage to the shrine of St Columba in long-term perspective and show how memory, place and belief are co-emergent with the built environment on Iona.

Adrián Maldonado is the Archaeology Project Support Officer at the University of Glasgow. He administers the Iona Research Group including writing up the results of the unpublished excavations on Iona by the late Prof Charles Thomas.

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