Fragments of a wooden hut found on the Scottish island of Iona have been confirmed as the 1,400-year-old remnants of the cell of St Columba.

The Irish saint founded a monastery at Iona that became one of Europe’s leading centres of learning and served as the springboard for the evangelisation of Scotland.

St Columba was renowned for his sanctity and his life was associated with many miracles. His guidance for monastic life was followed in Scotland, Ireland and Northumbria until it was superseded by the milder Rule of St Benedict.

St Columba’s biographer Adomnán wrote that in his old age Columba slept on a bare slab of rock, ate barley and oat cakes, and drank only water.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Glasgow tested a sample of hazel charcoal taken from the presumed site of St Columba’s cell.

The charcoal had been kept in a matchbox in a garage in Cornwall for several decades. It had been found at Tòrr an Aba, the “mound of the abbot”, a rocky hillock traditionally thought to be the site of St Columba’s cell.

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