St Oran's Graveyard

(Rèilig Odhrain)

An ancient burial ground lying to the north of Baile Mor on the east coast of Iona in the Inner Hebrides, St. Oran's Graveyard (Gael: Rèilig Odhrain) surrounds St. Oran's Chapel. Known as the burial place of the Kings, it is possible that St. Oran himself was the first interment here. The deceased were carried down the 'Street of the Dead' (Gael: Sràid nam Marbh), a cobbled roadway which still leads from Baile Mor to Iona Abbey. Owing to its position close to the grave of St. Columba in the Abbey, the graveyard became a popular final resting place for Scottish royalty and, in 1549, it was suggested that forty-eight Dalriadan or Scottish kings, eight Norwegian kings and four Irish kings lay buried here. It certainly represents one of the best collections of Mediaeval grave slabs in the world, several of which are protected within St. Oran's Chapel. Martin Martin visited in 1695 and observed that many of the royal grave markers had become illegible. The traveller and antiquarian Thomas Pennant visited in 1769 and included illustrations of the grave slabs in his Tour of Scotland (1772). A fine Celtic Cross, known as St. Oran's Cross was once to be found here, but is now preserved in the Iona Abbey Museum. Politician John Smith (1938 - 1994) was buried in a modern extension to the northeast.

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