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High Crosses

A concentration of remarkable monuments, once located in front of the West Door of Iona Abbey, only St. Martin's Cross remains in situ, alongside a replica of St. John's Cross. The island of Iona is the cradle of the Celtic Cross. The remains of fourteen high crosses and eight cross-bases have been identified on Iona, dating from the 8th to the 19th C., although there were most-likely many more in the past. The nearby, but later, MacLean's Cross is sometimes included among the High Crosses.

St. Martin's Cross dates from the later 8th C. and comprises a single stone. It stands 4.3m (14 feet) in height, has a span of 1.2m (4 feet). The west face has scenes from the Bible. The east face is richly adorned with bosses and serpents. Slots in the ends of the side-arms once held decorative mounts.

St. John's Cross is now a concrete replica, raised in 1970, with the original now preserved in the Iona Abbey Museum. It stands 5.3m (17½ feet) in height, has a span of 2.2m (7¼ feet) and was designed such that the late afternoon sun would cast a shadow onto the Abbey doorway, emphasising the great sanctity of the Abbey. The original St. John's Cross, which comprised several separate stones carefully fitted together, was patched in 1927 due to damage and then blown over twice in the 1950s.

St. Matthew's Cross that once also stood here is now also to be found in Iona Abbey Museum, as is St. Oran's Cross, which was originally located in St. Oran's Graveyard, a short distance to the south.


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