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The Cover
July 7, 2010

The Arrest of Christ

JAMA. 2010;304(1):13. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.871

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the late fifth century, there were only a few places in Europe where people still knew how to read and write. One of these outposts of civilization was a monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of modern Scotland. It was founded by the Irish monk Columcille and 12 companions in the year 563 CE. They built a hut for each monk, a mill, a smithy, a kiln, a kitchen and dining hall, a little church, and a scriptorium for producing manuscripts. In time Iona became a center of learning for Pict, Scot, Irish, Briton, and Anglo-Saxon visitors and students. Learned monks from Iona fanned out across Scotland and beyond, some making their way to continental Europe, founding new monasteries and reestablishing literacy and Christian theology in regions where they had long been forgotten. Meanwhile the work of reproducing illustrated manuscripts on Iona continued, and in the late eighth century it culminated in the master work known as the Book of Kells.

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