Wednesday, September 26, 2012

monasticism (10)

The Hermits Cell on Iona

Today all that remains of the Hermit’s Cell on Iona is a rough stone foundation of an oval hut which would have been made of timber or turf. An entrance faces southwest to capture the most daylight.
As he tells stories from Colmcille’s life, the saint’s biographer Adomnán describes the island of Iona and the life of the monks:
‘One day, when St Columba was living on Iona, he set off into the wilder parts of the island to find a place secluded from other people where he could pray alone.’

 Monastic life has always focused on the need for deep reflection and contemplation, away from the distractions of everyday life. The monks and nuns of Iona would have had a number of smaller cells in the remote parts of the island which were used as retreats.

 This site is known as the Hermit’s Cell and is said by some to be the place where Colmcille prayed. For some pilgrims to Iona, the site represents the importance of solitary reflection and prayer, a tradition passed down by the saint to his followers.
As with many places which are linked to saints and holy figures, there is no historical evidence for this connection.

The name Hermit’s Cell is said to be a translation from Gaelic. Cobhan means ‘box, chest or ark’ - so may mean something like a small wooden cell - and cùilteach means ‘remote, hidden or private’ which suggests a hermit’s retreat. So it may not be a precise translation but the words perhaps suggest a link to a monk’s isolated place of contemplation.

excerpts of article from Sli Cholmcille 

graphic: the site known as the Hermits cell on Iona island

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