The Reformation which swept across Scotland in 1560 brought widespread destruction in its wake. On Iona it resulted in the demise of the abbey, the nunnery, and St Ronan's Church, which had served as the island's parish church since the 1200s. For the first time since the arrival of St Columba on Iona almost a thousand years earlier, there was no formal place of worship on the island.
This situation persisted until the building of the Iona Parish Church in 1828. It was one of 32 "Parliamentary Churches" (so named because they were paid for with funds voted by Parliament) built across the Highlands and Islands to a standard design produced by the engineer Thomas Telford for a T-shaped church and an accompanying manse. The whole programme was completed by 1830 at a total cost of £54,500.
It takes no great feat of observation to realise that Iona Parish Church is not T-shaped. When it was built, the plans were altered to remove the "leg" of the T, which was meant to project westwards. The result was an oblong church with pews built lengthways to focus the congregation's attention on a long communion table and, especially, on the pulpit built onto the east wall between its two windows.
In 1938 the interior of the church was realigned to what you see today, with the pews set across the width of the church and facing its south end, which became home to a pulpit and smaller communion table.
The Parish Church stands back from the main road to Iona Abbey, and 50 yards in front of the church by the side of the road, stands MacLean's Cross, a tall free-standing cross probably erected in the 1400s as one of Iona's many crosses serving as prayer stations for pilgrims coming to the island. Today it is a rarity: only a handful of Iona's stone crosses survived the Reformation compared with, by one count, the 357 that did not.