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Home  >  News  >  £100k Lottery Grant for Iona Abbey Library Project


£100k Lottery Grant for Iona Abbey Library Project

The Very Rev Dr Finlay Macdonald pictured in Iona Abbey Library (Photo courtesy of Iona Cathedral Trust)

The Heritage Lottery fund has given £100,000 in funding to preserve the historic library of Iona Abbey.

The funding, made to the Iona Cathedral Trust, will preserve the little-known library, hidden away above the cloisters of Iona Abbey, for future generations.

The project will lead to the creation of a new  Heritage Collection for the island.

The early monastery of St.Columba, founded in the 6th century, famously produced the Book of Kells, amongst other notable manuscripts at a time when libraries were a symbol of wealth and education uniquely owned by an elite few.

The current library, restored during the rebuilding of the Iona Abbey claustral buildings by George Macleod (later Lord Macleod of Fuinary who famously described Iona as ‘a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual') and the Iona Community, includes collections of national significance. The collection includes Gaelic manuscripts and examples of Celtic art among the treasures that will be restored. Copies will also be made available online through the creation of a digital catalogue of the Heritage Collection thanks to the expertise being shared by the University of the Highlands and Islands. The grant will enable the Cathedral Trust to preserve the library for future generations.

The project plans to uplift several hundred library items to conservators on the mainland for restoration and repair over the next two years and is supported by a number of organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Iona Community, the University of the Highlands and Islands, as well as the Island of Iona Community Council.

Iona Abbey is one of Scotland’s top heritage attractions, and the island of Iona regularly attracts more than 130,000 visitors each year.

Volunteer support will play a key part in the project.

A public exhibition will be created on Iona in the final year to showcase all the hard work, fun and play generated by the project before its expected completion in October 2018.

The Chairman of the Iona Cathedral Trust, the Very Rev Dr Finlay Macdonald said, “We are delighted this gem of a library can be made more accessible and our valuable heritage preserved thanks to this support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Iona Cathedral attracts many visitors, but the library is hidden away over the cloisters.  Many more people will be able to enjoy it thanks to this grant.”

Lucy Casot, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, added:

“This is a great project that, thanks to the National Lottery players, will transform the Iona Abbey Library Project for future visitors and encourage everyone to enjoy its amazing heritage collections.  Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to give its support.”

The Iona Cathedral Trust was established by a Deed of Trust in 1899 by the eighth Duke of Argyll who made over the Cathedral and all ecclesiastical grounds and buildings on Iona to the trustees in perpetuity, with variations in 2004 and 2010.  The heritage is currently leased to Scottish Ministers under a long lease. Iona Abbey is managed on their behalf by Historic Environment Scotland.

A majority of the trustees hold office by virtue of the office they hold within The Church of Scotland but also include the Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Argyll and a nominee of Island of Iona Community Council.


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