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founded; their very site can only with the greatest difficulty and uncertainty be made out, and the grand cathedral ruins which now dignify the spot are the remains of stone buildings, constructed at a much later date and specially adapted to the Romish ritual. The ecclesiastical remains on Elachnave which have survived to our own day are therefore important as indicating what must have been the nature and relative position of the parent institution at Iona, upon the plan of which they were modelled.
To the west of the oratory there are two large square enclosures covered with long coarse grass. The walls that surround them in most places are embedded in the turf, and only rise a foot or two above the ground. The one nearest the church was evidently an old garden where the monks cultivated the few simple herbs which they required for food. The fact that there was a kiln for drying corn in connection with the buildings indicated that the brethren cultivated this grain, a task which must have been attended with considerable difficulty, considering how scanty was the arable soil on the island, and how rainy and boisterous the climate. Agriculture and the tending of cattle were the principal out-door pursuits with which they diversified their sacred exercises. With the labour of their own hands they procured their food-which was very simple, consisting of oaten or barley bread, milk, eggs, and fish, enriched on festal days, or on the arrival of special guests, by an addition of mutton or beef to the principal meal. The enclosure beyond was undoubtedly an ancient churchyard. This was an essential feature in the monastic establishments of St. Columba. Every one of them, like the original one at Iona, had its cemetery adjoining the church. And while all else belonging to the primitive Celtic church has disappeared, the numerous old burying-grounds throughout the country which it had consecrated beside the cells of its saints remain to this day hallowed by the memories and affections of many generations. Some of these burying-grounds, however, have a history of their own, and an antiquity far more venerable than that of the saint's cell or the church connected with them. They were hypethral temples consecrated to pagan mythology long before the introduction of Christianity; and in Christian times they were open-air sanctuaries in which our forefathers worshipped centuries before any of our parish churches were built. The oldest architectural erection upon them was the cross of wood or stone, which the wandering preacher set up as a rally-point for the people, and to hallow the place of their meeting. If Elachnave, as we have every reason to believe, was a primitive seat of pagan worship long before the time of St. Brendan or St. Columba, then the burying-ground beside the oratory must have been the consecrated part of the island. And in all likelihood the Celtic saints erected their own structures on it because of its immemorial sacredness, displacing the original dark superstitions by the blessed rites of Christianity. Only a few rude stones covered with grey lichens, without date or inscription, now mark the spot
where some unknown dust reposes. The cross is carved on some of them; and its simple shape, contrasting so strikingly with the elaborate sculptures of the Iona tombstones and the sepulchral monuments in the priory of Oronsay, shows that this graveyard is of far more ancient date than anything that can now be seen in those famous haunts. On a subsequent occasion we took with us a pick and shovel and excavated some of the most promising graves, when we came between two and three feet below the surface upon more ornate headstones of slate of a later date, some of which had the Celtic cross and the other well-known Iona sculptures. There is one large massive slab of slate lying near the oratory, unfortunately broken in two, with the tree of life and some other elaborate patterns carved upon it, which must have been taken from the buryingground, where it doubtless covered the grave of some prominent dignitary of the church. Macculloch mentions that when he visited the island there were numerous richly sculptured stones standing in the place. These must either have been removed or have sunk out of sight in the soil during the interval, for there are now none above ground. Rank grass mixed with luxuriant bracken and the common weeds of the waste cover the enclosure, which is indeed God's acre, for it has long passed out of the keeping of man, and no human hand for ages has tended the graves of the forgotten dead. We can hardly suppose that the use of the cemetery was restricted to the members of the monastic institution on the island. It is filled from end to end with graves, and it seems improbable that so many interments could have been furnished by the monastery alone during the comparatively short period of its history. The holy reputation of the place would make it widely attractive; and it would be eagerly sought as a burying-place by the inhabitants of the mainland and of the surrounding islands, just as Iona was sought. Island-churchyards besides were always favourite burying-places, originating doubtless in the greater security from the ravages of wolves which they afforded; the mainland in primitive times being covered with impenetrable forests and swamps, in which roamed wild beasts from which no grave could be secure. Layman and cleric, saint and serf, may therefore have here mingled their dust together; and over them all alike the lonely wind, as it sweeps through the blades of the long grass, sings its requiem. There is nothing mournful, however, in such a cemetery. The breath of the ages has winnowed away all the sadness; the wounds which death inflicted have long ago been healed by his own hand; and the weepers for many centuries have been with the wept. Human sorrows here are but as the inarticulate sounds of the desert; human affections but as the fleeting tints on a sunset cloud; human memories but as the lights and shadows that flit over a mountain slope. We can think of man's death here as we think of the decay of nature; and the life that has been lived so long ago that it is to us but a bodiless dream, seems like the herbs of the field that grow out of its dust,
which flourish in the morning and in the evening are cut down and withered. Human remains and the relics of past summers seem here to have the same value; and in vain is the enclosure separated from the common hillside. Nature has trodden down its walls, obliterated its suggestive mounds, effaced its carvings with her lichens and mosses, and brought all that was human in it back to the level of her own universal bosom; and over all, her own life and man's death, she breathes her benison of changeless peace. It is the cross alone
that distinguishes the unconsciousness of human life from the unconsciousness of nature. And what a trophy of everlasting victory is that! Nature cannot keep for ever in her embrace, though she has done so for many ages, the life for which Jesus died. While we muse here upon the decease which was accomplished at Jerusalem, we feel indeed that none who fall asleep beneath the shadow of the cross can perish; for the shadow of the cross is the shadow of God.
At the top of a green grassy hillock in the neighbourhood, overlooking the shore, there is a heap of loose stones, in the midst of which a square slab of stone projects, marked with a simple incised Local tradition points out this spot as the grave of Eithne, the mother of St. Columba. This remarkable woman was the daughter of Dima, son of Ner, descended from Cathaeir Mor, King of Leinster, and afterwards of all Ireland. Her family for several generations seem to have been distinguished for their piety and talents, and shone in that rude remote age like lights in a dark place. Her brothers, Ernan and Virgnous, were among the most devoted supporters of their illustrious nephew in his missionary enterprise. Her nephew, St. Conan, was also a distinguished pupil of St. Columba, and his name still appears on the cross at Campbeltown, and is connected with the church of Kilchonan in the Rhinns of Islay. Like Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, Eithne, the mother of St. Columba, had a powerful influence in determining the bent of her son's inclination towards the Church. Indeed, as we learn from the interesting book called the Felire of Aengus the Culdee Saint,' written in the ninth century, nearly all the Scotch and Irish saints were indebted to their mothers for their training for a holy life. Before her child was born Eithne made him the subject of constant prayer. She dreamed one night that an angel presented to her a garment of the most beautiful texture and varied hues. This gift, however, he afterwards took away; and as it flew through the sky it continued to unfold and extend itself over mountains and plains, until at length it covered a space which her eye could not measure. Finding what she had once possessed thus gone out of her reach, she was grieved exceedingly at her loss, but the angel comforted her by saying that the expanding garment was a symbol of the teaching of the child that should be born to her, which would spread over all Ireland and Scotland and be the means of bringing an innumerable company of souls to heaven. Like Hen of old, she dedicated her little Samuel to the Lord from his
very infancy; and one can imagine with what tender solicitude such a mother would watch over and mark the early indications of piety and talent in a child, whose birth was heralded by such wonderful auguries. We know nothing regarding her subsequent career except that she lived to see her son fulfilling the promise of his childhood, and fully justifying all the predictions concerning his future greatness.
It must not be forgotten that the brethren at Elachnave were not monks in the sense in which the word is usually understood. They were not associated together for the express purpose of observing a certain monastic rule; but they imposed special regulations upon themselves for the promotion of order; and their chief object for living in fellowship was to impart instruction and prepare candidates for the post of the ministry. The institution was therefore, properly speaking, not a monastery, but a seminary of sacred learning, a centre of missionary enterprise. From time to time suitably qualified men were sent out from this island in all directions to preach the gospel, to baptize converts, to visit and heal the sick, and to instruct the ignorant. Theirs was not the idle life of mere recluses who had abandoned the duties of society for the sake of selfish ease. Not for purposes that terminated in themselves did they cultivate in seclusion their natural gifts and spiritual powers. Like a streamlet that diffuses to the populous dwellers on its banks far down in the valley the blessings it has gathered from the clouds in the lonely places among the hills, so these monks retired from the world that they might communicate to men in their own busy haunts the high thoughts that had come to them from the inspiration of the desert. But this use of solitude as a preparation for an active missionary life in the crowd soon gave place to the love of it for its own sake as a means of personal holiness. An increasing asceticism was regarded as a high type of Christian virtue, and this influence gradually led the brethren to sever themselves from the common or cœnobitical life of the fraternity, and either to build for themselves solitary cells near the monastery, or to retire altogether into the wilderness. first many ecclesiastics were married men, although partially separated from their wives by their religious duties; but at the close of the age of St. Columba and subsequently, a more pretentious morality made its appearance, and complete celibacy was practised by those who aspired to the highest degree of perfection. In the sixth and seventh centuries the old monastic church had become almost entirely eremitical in Scotland. No other type of excellence save that which was developed in complete solitude was prized, or even existed, and to become religious in those days simply meant to become a recluse or hermit. The teaching and example of the first great hermitsSt. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony-had reached the Western Isles, and had there awakened an enthusiastic response. We read of Cormac na Leathan and other disciples of St. Columba sailing forth over the northern ocean to find in some far-away island a desert spot
where there might be no trace or recollection of man, and failing in the attempt so widely had the eremitic fever spread and taken possession of every available place. The famous legend of St. Brendan and his seven years' voyage in search of the land promised to the saints,' which stirred up many an adventurous spirit to navigate the western seas, and perhaps filled the mind of Columbus, long afterwards, with the hopes which led to the discovery of America, was, as Kingsley well observes, but a dream of the hermit's cell-of the ideal of an earthly paradise where no echo of man's life ever intruded. It was this intense craving for solitude that induced the disciples of St. Columba to forsake the parent institution at Iona and build an establishment in the deeper seclusion of Elachnave. But, as Dr. Skene has remarked, even the little society immured on that desert island was too large a world for some of the more meditative and ascetic spirits of the fraternity. While still living in the island, and retaining their connection with the monastery, they sought frequent opportunities of retiring for a time to a separate building for solitary prayer or for penitential exercises, during which they held no intercourse with their brethren.
Of this curious mode of life there is a very interesting relic still preserved in the island. A short distance below the cluster of menastic ruins, on a grassy slope not far from the shore, are the remains of two circular, dome-shaped buildings joined together. They are built of loose stones, without any cement, overlapping each other and coming to a point in the roof. The walls are very thick and strong, and have been so firmly and artistically constructed that part of the beehive-roof of the smaller one still suspends its curve in the air, having defied the storms of centuries. On the outside it is covered with mould and sods, and blends almost insensibly with the turfy hill-side. The larger structure, which is half demolished, is internally fourteen feet in diameter, and opens upon the outside by means of a square-shaped doorway facing south-west, another similar doorway communicating between the two buildings at the point of junction. So low was the entrance, that one required to creep on all fours in order to gain admission. The walls were blackened with the smoke of fires kindled by fishermen, who from time to time were forced to take refuge in this place by stress of weather. By them these beehive cells are well known as The Ovens,' to which, indeed, they bear a considerable resemblance. The place in which this curious building is situated seems, according to Adamnan, to have been anciently called Muirbulcmar; and in one of the cells, as we learn from the same authority, St. Feargne, or Virgnous, the maternal uncle of St. Columba, led a hermit's life for twelve years, as a victorious soldier of Jesus Christ,' after having lived for many years previously without reproach in obedience among the brethren at Iona. Similar eremitical remains, belonging to the same or to a subsequent age, still exist among the Hebrides, in the islands of St. Kilda and Rona, in the Flannan Islands to the west of Lewis, and in Inchcolm in the