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Thieves disturb St Columba’s shrine

14 August 2015

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St Columba’s shrine: a wooden floor-hatch was forced open and damaged by would-be thieves

St Columba’s shrine: a wooden floor-hatch was forced open and damaged by would-be thieves

THE grave of St Columba, on the Scottish island of Iona, has been reopened to the public after it was raided and damaged by would-be thieves.

The incident occurred on Monday of last week between regular tours, supervised by Historic Scotland, of Iona Abbey, which is next to the shrine.

St Columba’s remains are said to have been buried on the spot after his death in 597. As there are no longer any visible relics, however, there was nothing for the offenders to steal. The saint is known for spreading Christianity throughout Scotland.

A spokesperson from Historic Scotland said: “The area has been secured, and work carried out to assess and repair the damage. We have not noted any theft or damage to the cists [burial chambers] under the floor. Staff are continuing to be vigilant for any suspect behaviour on site, and the matter has been reported to Police Scotland.”

The island and the abbey are home to the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community of men and women from varying church traditions.

It was founded in Glasgow in 1938 by the Revd George MacLeod, who took a group of ministers and working men to Iona to rebuild the ruined medieval abbey. Today, the Community runs three residential centres on the island. A group of staff and volunteers live and work there, and maintain daily services in the abbey.

The Iona Centres Director, Dr Rosie Magee, said: “Folk were distressed, and surprised, by this attempted act of destruction, and are thankful it was not worse. We have been gratified by the serious­­­ness with  which the police took this most unfortunate incident.”

Police Scotland continue to investigate.

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