Colmcille, Columcille, Columkill
Gaelic: Colm Cille
Born: 7 December, 521, Ireland
Dead: 9 Juni, 597, Iona
Saint Columba was an important figure in early Irish Christianity. He was an Irish monk, missionary, and scholar who played a significant role in the Christianization of Scotland and the preservation of Gaelic culture.
Columba was born on December 7 in 521, in Gartan, County Donegal, Ireland. He came from a noble Irish family, and he was educated in Christian monastic traditions. He entered the monastic life and studied under several renowned Irish saints, including Finnian of Movill and Mobhi of Glasnevin.
Columba was known for his piety, intelligence, and passion for learning. He became a prominent member of the monastic community at Clonard Abbey and later founded his own monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in the year 563. The monastery on Iona became a renowned center of learning, spirituality, and missionary activity.
One of the significant events associated with Saint Columba is the Battle of Cul Dreimhne (also known as the Battle of the Book) in 561. The battle erupted over a dispute regarding the copying of a psalter. Columba’s intervention resulted in many deaths, leading him to feel remorseful. In penance, he exiled himself from Ireland and embarked on missionary work in Scotland.
Columba’s missionary efforts were instrumental in spreading Christianity among the Picts and Scots in Scotland. He established numerous monastic settlements and churches, contributing to the Christianization of the region. The monastic community he founded on Iona became a beacon of Christian faith and culture, producing illuminated manuscripts and fostering the arts and education.
Saint Columba was also known for his literary and scholarly pursuits. He is crediting with transcribing and preserving many important early Christian texts, including the Psalter of St. Jerome. His work as a scribe and scholar contributed to the preservation of Gaelic language, literature, and religious traditions.
Columba died on June 9, 597, at his beloved monastery on Iona. His relics were highly venerated, and Iona became a significant pilgrimage site. His influence and legacy extended beyond his lifetime, shaping the development of Christianity and Gaelic culture in Ireland and Scotland.
According to Glennie, Columba was supposed to possess prophetic power.
Phyllis McGinley, who calls him “Ireland’s most typical saint”, gives a physical description from old chronicles: tall, fair-skinned, dark-haired, gray-eyed, and with a melodious, far-sounding voice. She also retells the tale of why he left Ireland – in self-banishment for the horror of having started a war over his right to copy a book.
He is the patron saint of Derry, a city where he founded a monastic settlement in c. 540.