The Differences of Iona


A Celtic cross on Iona

When St Columba left his native Ireland, vowing never to return until he had converted as many men as had died in the battle he provoked, he brought with him the Irish style of Christianity, usually known as "Celtic Christianity". There were many differences between that and the Catholic Christianity brought here by St Augustine.

For example, the Celtic "clas" was a much friendlier institution than the rather dour monasticism favoured by Rome; the monks shaved right across the front of their heads rather than the sort of halo effect of the Roman tonsure; the Celts observed a different date for Easter, probably derived from the date of the Passover; they may have baptised by immersion; but their most startling difference is mentioned on an information panel in an Irish museum.

With Iona's abbey as the backdrop, I tell the story of St Columba and the different style of Christianity he established in Scotland.