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Iona Abbey reopens after multimillion pound renovation

by Press Association

Living areas at the ancient Iona Abbey have reopened after they were renovated following a multi-million-pound fundraising campaign.

The Princess Royal visited the Hebridean island this week and spoke at a special service at the 13th-century abbey to celebrate the refurbished community and living spaces.

The Iona Abbey Capital Appeal raised £3.75 million from around 2,500 donations, which came from people in 22 different countries.

The new facilities in the living quarters include modernised and retrofitted bedroom and community areas, a completely renovated refectory, a new kitchen and scullery with dumb waiter, comprehensive rewiring, insulation and a new plumbing system.

PA Chris Watt Photography

The island of Iona has been described as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland after St Columba and 12 companions went there from Ireland in AD 563.

Speaking in Iona Abbey during the service of blessing on Monday, the Princess Royal said she was pleased to be there “to celebrate that the life of work and worship in this ancient place has been secured for many years to come”.

She said: “Access is vital because the people who come to stay at the abbey are the life of the building, forming a community committed to justice and peace.

“1,500 years since St Columba’s birth, and almost a century since Iona Abbey was rebuilt in the shadow of the Great Depression, now, in the shadow of a world pandemic, the Iona community is standing once again on its ancient foundations to meet another moment of historic crisis and deep need.”

The Princess Royal received a freshly-baked loaf of bread from the new kitchen and a special posy from a local schoolboy.

She was piped around the Abbey cloisters by three young bagpipers from the island.


PA Chris Watt Photography

Each donor to the fundraising appeal has their name etched in a special book that has been designed in a similar way to the Book of Kells, which the Princess Royal signed during her visit.

Iona community leader Ruth Harvey said: “This is a landmark moment in the history of Iona Abbey. Dedicated and visionary volunteers devoted so much time, effort and shared wisdom to make this happen.

“The mystery of faith is evident in the sheer hard work and determination of individuals. People who come to the abbey can expect a warm welcome, beautiful space to live and to join with us in community.

“Our movement is now more sustainable, more open and more accessible than ever before, for all who seek a world of justice and peace through community.”

The abbey will now also be able to tap into the Iona Ground Source Heat Project which is part of the island’s low carbon initiative which will deliver sustainable heating for the abbey, hotels, village hall, school, businesses and homes.

Christine Jones, who led the Iona Abbey Capital Appeal, said the reopening is “a sign of hope for the rebuilding of individual lives and of community in Scotland and beyond”.

During her visit, Anne also spoke to BBC Songs of Praise for a special episode due to air on BBC One on June 27 and visited the Iona village hall, which has also been rebuilt following a major fundraising effort.

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