South Scotland

St Oran's Cross from Iona put back together in Selkirk

Celtic High Cross
Image caption Work is being done to reassemble the cross before it is returned to Iona

One of the world's first Celtic High Crosses from the 8th Century is being reassembled in Selkirk in order to be returned to Iona.

St Oran's Cross will be back in place for the celebration of the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on the island.

The cross was in five pieces and originally weighed more than one tonne.

It will be put back together inside a special steel structure designed by Borders-based mount-maker Richard West.

St Columba and his followers arrived from Ireland and established a monastery on Iona in 563.

It is seen as a "springboard for the spread of Christianity in Scotland".

St Oran's Cross will be re-erected for the first time in centuries in a new display as part of the 1450th anniversary celebrations.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland's Head of Cultural Heritage said: "The complete cross originally weighed in excess of one tonne and was 4.4m high.

"We believe it was commissioned by a king around the mid-700s.

"It is beautifully carved with Biblical scenes and Celtic interlace patterns.

"Just below the centre of the cross arm is an extremely rare and early image of the Virgin and Child sheltered by the wings of angels."

Fascinating history

Mr Yeoman said that such "monumental, powerful, and decorative use of the Christian cross" had never been seen before anywhere in Western Europe.

"It's one of the largest and finest in the collection of early medieval carved stone grave slabs and crosses to be found at Iona Abbey," he said.

Historic Scotland's experts are cleaning, studying and conserving the carved stones before they go back on display in a new exhibition in time for the anniversary this year.

The agency is also investing in new interpretation and visitor facilities to help visitors fully appreciate Iona Abbey's fascinating history and the significance of the spectacular carved stone collection.

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