St. Otteran of Iona, Abbot
Born in Britain; died c. 563. Otteran, abbot of Meath, was one of the
12 who accompanied
(f.d. June 9)
to Iona. Other
historians say that Otteran was at Iona before Columba, based on the
fact that the ancient cemetery there is called Reilig Oran. He died
soon after their arrival, the first of the monks from Ireland to die at
Iona. Soon thereafter, Columba saw Otteran's soul ascending to heaven
following a battle between angels and devils [Irish toll houses?].
Otteran may have founded the monastery at Leitrioch Odrain (Latteragh,
Tipperary). He has given his name to Oronsay. His feast is kept
Saint Oran's Ion
St Orans Abbey built in the11th century has been rebuilt over time and was
completely restored in the 20th century. The oldest part is that of the
restored is St Oran's Chapel, to the south of the abbey on the right, which
is plain and unadorned save for its splendid 11th-century Norman doorway. It
is said that Columba was prevented from completing the building of the
original chapel until a living person had been buried in the foundations.
His friend Oran volunteered and was duly buried. Columba later asked for the
face to be uncovered so that he could bid a final farewell to his friend,
but Oran was found to be alive and claimed he had seen Heaven and Hell,
describing them in such blasphemous terms that Columba ordered he be covered
Surrounding the chapel is the Reilig Odhrain, the sacred burial ground,
which is said to contain the graves of 48 Scottish kings, including
Macbeth's victim, Duncan, as well as four Irish and eight Norwegian kings.
The stones you see today are not the graves of kings but of various
important people from around the West Highlands and Islands. The most recent
is that of John Smith, leader of the British Labour Party from 1992 until
his untimely death in 1994.
Beside the Road of the Dead, which leads from the abbey church to St Oran's
Chapel, stands the eighth-century St Martin's Cross. This is the finest of
Iona's Celtic high crosses and is remarkably complete, with the Pictish
serpent-and-boss decoration on one side and holy figures on the other.
Standing in front of the abbey entrance is a replica of St John's Cross, the
other great eighth-century monument. The restored original is in the
Infirmary Museum, at the rear of the abbey, along with a fine collection of
No part of St Columba's original buildings survives, but to the left of the
main entrance is St Columba's Shrine, the small, steep-roofed chamber which
almost certainly marks the site of the saint's tomb. You get a good view of
the whole complex from the top of the small grassy knoll opposite the abbey
entrance. This is Torr an Aba, where Columba's cell is said to have been.
The Abbey itself has been carefully restored to its original beautiful
simplicity and inside, in a side chapel, are marble effigies of the eighth
Duke of Argyll and his third wife, Duchess Ina.
Troparion of St Otteran
O Father Otteran, thou wast the first
among the saintly Columba's disciples to repose
and be laid to rest in the blessed soil of Iona.
As in thy life thou didst live only for Christ
we pray thee to
intercede for us that we may follow thee into the way of salvation.
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Page last updated: 22 October 2008
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