Abbey & Nunnery

John Renshaw was personally appointed as architect to the Iona Cathedral Trustees in 1992 and acted as the Trust’s architect from 1989 to 2000 when the Abbey and Nunnery were taken into care by Historic Scotland. During this time he was responsible on a day to day basis for the direction of all ongoing repair, maintenance and conservation programmes to the buildings, monuments and precincts undertaken by the Abbey Direct Works Department and including the ongoing programme of repair works to the Abbey Church which was funded by Historic Scotland from 1980 – 2000.

During this time he was responsible for a number of significant conservation and development projects including the restoration of St John’s Cross and its redisplay within the Infirmary Museum; the renovation of St Ronan’s Church; installation of new lighting within the Abbey Church; the survey of the Nunnery ruins and preparation of proposals for its preservation ‘as found’; the rationalisation of the Direct Works Department’s operational accommodation and enhancement of Abbey and Nunnery precincts including the construction of a new conservation centre at Fionnphort and storage compound within the Abbey precinct; the provision of specific on-site practical training for the DWD; the drafting of a conservation plan and museum policies for the curation of the collection of Early Christian and medieval carved funerary monuments and other Early Christian artefacts on loan from the National Museums of Scotland.

St Ronan's Church

St Ronan’s Church is a Medieval Parish Church within the Nunnery precinct on the Isle of Iona. St. Ronan’s Church had become ruinous after the Reformation was consolidated during the 1920s when a glazed roof was installed to enable its use as a repository of some of the many Early Christian and medieval carved funerary monuments.

However by the 1980s the metal roof structure and glazing were in such poor condition and the internal environmental conditions were so detrimental to the carved stones that funding was raised to renovate the Museum to provide for the replacement of the roof, repair of the medieval structure and provision of new storage facilities for the carved stones. 

 The supporting structure for the display and storage shelving and new roof was designed to sit within and without touching the medieval structure of the Church. The flat lead roof with glazing along each side was designed so that it is not visible above the wall heads of the medieval structure.

The stone floor paving was laid out to identify the arrangement and existence of an earlier small church below the medieval structure which was identified, together with a number of earlier, medieval and early modern burials on the site, during the archaeological excavations undertaken before the building works commenced. The Church is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade B Listed building.

St John's Cross

Sally Foster has written a fascinating book about the history of the Cross and its numerous replicas. She explores the value of replicas, authenticity as well as conservation ethics and techniques. For more information on the book, click here

Cap House

The project comprised the restoration of the late Medieval saddleback roof to the Abbey Church Tower.  The design was based on 18th and 19th century sketches and survey documentation from the consolidation of the ruins undertaken during the late 19th century and incorporated the design of a new finial cross and stained glass window with Graciela Ainsworth and Patrick Ross-Smith.

The project also included phased removal of dense cement pointing to the external walls of the South Presbytry and Choir walls of the Abbey Church and replacement with high calcium lime mortar; and a programme of specialist conservation treatments to the Medieval carved features within the church including the carved Capitals of the Crossing and South Choir Aisle, the Pescina and Sedilia and undertaken in association with Bill Martin conservator, Graciela Ainsworth and latterly Dr John Dixon of Edinburgh University.

The work was undertaken by the Abbey Direct Works Department with assistance from specialist contractors who also provided training for the tradesmen in the the construction and dressing of the masonry and the conservation treatments to the carved medieval detail within the Church.  The works were completed in 1996.