Columbanus (Irish: Columbán, 543 – 21 November 615),[1] also known as St. Columban,[2] was an Irish missionary notable for founding a number of monasteries from around 590 in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms, most notably Luxeuil Abbey in present-day France and Bobbio Abbey in present-day Italy. He is remembered as a key figure in the Hiberno-Scottish mission, or Irish missionary activity in early medieval Europe.[1] In recent years, however, as Columbanus's deeds and legacy have come to be re-examined by historians, the traditional narrative of his career has been challenged and doubts have been raised regarding his actual involvement in missionary work and the extent to which he was driven by purely religious motives or also by a concern for playing an active part in politics and church politics in Francia.[3]

Columbanus taught an Irish monastic rule and penitential practices for those repenting of sins, which emphasised private confession to a priest, followed by penances levied by the priest in reparation for the sins. Columbanus is one of the earliest identifiable Hiberno-Latin writers.[1]

Saint Columbanus
Picture of Saint Columbanus
Saint Columbanus, stained glass window, Bobbio Abbey crypt
Leinster, Kingdom of Meath
Died21 November 615
Bobium, Kingdom of the Lombards
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Roman Catholic Church
Feast23 November


Most of what we know about Columbanus is based on Columbanus' own works (as far as they have been preserved)[4][5] and Jonas of Bobbio's Vita Columbani (Life of Columbanus), which was written between 639 and 641.[Note 1] Jonas entered Bobbio after Columbanus' death but relied on reports of monks who still knew Columbanus.[1] A description of miracles of Columbanus written by an anonymous monk of Bobbio is of much later date.[6] In the second volume of his Acta Sanctorum O.S.B., Mabillon gives the life in full, together with an appendix on the miracles of the saint, written by an anonymous member of the Bobbio community.[1]


Early life

Columbanus (the Latinised form of Columbán, meaning the white dove) was born in the Kingdom of Meath, now part of Leinster, in Ireland in 543,[1] the year Saint Benedict died at Monte Cassino.[7] Prior to his birth, his mother was said to have had visions of bearing a child who, in the judgment of those interpreting the visions, would become a "remarkable genius".[8] Columbanus was well-educated in the areas of grammar, rhetoric, geometry, and the Holy Scriptures.[1][9]

Columbanus left home to study under Sinell, Abbot of Cluaninis in Lough Erne.[Note 2] Under Sinell's instruction, Columbanus composed a commentary on the Psalms. He then moved to Bangor Abbey on the coast of Down, where Saint Comgall was serving as the abbot. He stayed at Bangor until his fortieth year,[1] when he received Comgall's permission to travel to the continent.[10][11]

Frankish Gaul

Columbanus is located in France
Columbanus in Frankish Gaul

Columbanus gathered twelve companions for his journey—Saint Attala, Columbanus the Younger, Cummain, Domgal (Deicolus), Eogain, Eunan, Saint Gall, Gurgano, Libran, Lua, Sigisbert, and Waldoleno—and together they set sail for the continent. After a brief stop in Britain, most likely on the Scottish coast, they crossed the channel and landed in Brittany in 585.[1] At Saint-Malo in Brittany, there is a granite cross bearing the saint's name to which people once came to pray for rain in times of drought. The nearby village of Saint-Coulomb commemorates him in name.[12]

Columbanus and his companions were received with favour by King Gontram of Burgundy, and soon they made their way to Annegray, where they founded a monastery in an abandoned Roman fortress. Despite its remote location in the Vosges Mountains, the community became a popular pilgrimage site that attracted so many monastic vocations that two new monasteries had to be formed to accommodate them.[13] In 590, Columbanus obtained from King Gontram the Gallo-Roman castle called Luxovium in present-day Luxeuil-les-Bains, some eight miles from Annegray.[14] The castle, soon transformed into a monastery, was located in a wild region, thickly covered with pine forests and brushwood. Columbanus erected a third monastery called Ad-fontanas at present-day Fontaine-lès-Luxeuil, named for its numerous springs.[1][14] These monastic communities remained under Columbanus' authority, and their rules of life reflected the Irish tradition in which he had been formed. As these communities expanded and drew more pilgrims, Columbanus sought greater solitude, spending periods of time in a hermitage and communicating with the monks through an intermediary. Often he would withdraw to a cave seven miles away, with a single companion who acted as messenger between himself and his companions.[1][13][14]

During his twenty years in Gaul (in present-day France), Columbanus became involved in a dispute with the Frankish bishops who may have feared his growing influence. During the first half of the sixth century, the councils of Gaul had given to bishops absolute authority over religious communities. As heirs to the Irish monastic tradition, Columbanus and his monks used the Irish Easter calculation, a version of Bishop Augustalis's 84-year computus for determining the date of Easter (Quartodecimanism), whereas the Franks had adopted the Victorian cycle of 532 years. The bishops objected to the newcomers' continued observance of their own dating, which—among other issues—caused the end of Lent to differ. They also complained about the distinct Irish tonsure. In 602, the bishops assembled to judge Columbanus, but he did not appear before them as requested. Instead, he sent a letter to the prelates—a strange mixture of freedom, reverence, and charity—admonishing them to hold synods more frequently, and advising them to pay more attention to matters of equal importance to that of the date of Easter. In defence of his following his traditional paschal cycle, he wrote:

I am not the author of this divergence. I came as a poor stranger into these parts for the cause of Christ, Our Saviour. One thing alone I ask of you, holy Fathers, permit me to live in silence in these forests, near the bones of seventeen of my brethren now dead.[7]

When the bishops refused to abandon the matter, Columbanus, following Saint Patrick's canon, appealed directly to Pope Gregory I. In the third and only surviving letter, he asks "the holy Pope, his Father" to provide "the strong support of his authority" and to render a "verdict of his favour", apologising for "presuming to argue as it were, with him who sits in the chair of Peter, Apostle and Bearer of the Keys". None of the letters were answered, most likely due to the pope's death in 604.[1] Columbanus then sent a letter to Gregory's successor, Pope Boniface IV, asking him to confirm the tradition of his elders—if it is not contrary to the Faith—so that he and his monks can follow the rites of their ancestors. Before Boniface responded, Columbanus moved outside the jurisdiction of the Frankish bishops. Since the Easter issue appears to end around that time, Columbanus may have stopped celebrating Irish date of Easter after moving to Italy.[1][Note 3]

Columbanus was also involved in a dispute with members of the Frankish royal family. Upon the death of King Gontram of Burgundy, the succession passed to his nephew, Childebert II, the son of his brother Sigebert and Sigebert's wife Brunhilda of Austrasia. When Childebert II died, he left two sons, Theuderic II who inherited the Kingdom of Burgundy, and Theudebert II who inherited the Kingdom of Austrasia. Since both were minors, Brunhilda, their grandmother, declared herself their guardian and controlled the governments of the two kingdoms.[1]

Theuderic II venerated Columbanus and often visited him, but the saint admonished and rebuked him for his behaviour. When Theuderic began living with a mistress, the saint objected, earning the displeasure of Brunhilda, who thought a royal marriage would threaten her own power.[13] The saint did not spare the demoralised court, and Brunhilda became his bitterest foe.[16] Angered by the saint's moral stand, Brunhilda stirred up the bishops and nobles to find fault with his monastic rules. When Theuderic II finally confronted Columbanus at Luxeuil, ordering him to conform to the country's conventions, the saint refused and was then taken prisoner to Besançon. Columbanus managed to escape his captors and returned to his monastery at Luxeuil. When the king and his grandmother found out, they sent soldiers to drive him back to Ireland by force, separating him from his monks by insisting that only those from Ireland could accompany him into exile.[1]

Columbanus was taken to Nevers, then travelled by boat down the Loire river to the coast. At Tours he visited the tomb of Saint Martin, and sent a message to Theuderic II indicating that within three years he and his children would perish. When he arrived at Nantes, he wrote a letter before embarkation to his fellow monks at Luxeuil monastery. Filled with love and affection, the letter urges his brethren to obey Attala, who stayed behind as abbot of the monastic community.[1] The letter concludes:

They come to tell me the ship is ready. The end of my parchment compels me to finish my letter. Love is not orderly; it is this which has made it confused. Farewell, dear hearts of mine; pray for me that I may live in God.[1]

Soon after the ship set sail from Nantes, a severe storm drove the vessel back ashore. Convinced that his holy passenger caused the tempest, the captain refused further attempts to transport the monk. Columbanus made his way across Gaul to visit King Chlothar II of Neustria at Soissons where he was gladly received. Despite the king's offers to stay in his kingdom, Columbanus left Neustria in 611 for the court of King Theudebert II of Austrasia in the northeastern part of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks.[1]

The Alps

Columbanus travelled to Metz, where he received an honourable welcome, and then proceeding to Mainz, where he sailed upwards the Rhine river to the lands of the Suebi and Alemanni in the northern Alps, intending to preach the Gospel to these people. He followed the Rhine river and its tributaries, the Aar and the Limmat, and then on to Lake Zurich. Columbanus chose the village of Tuggen as his initial community, but the work was not successful.[1] He continued north-east by way of Arbon to Bregenz on Lake Constance. Here the saint found an oratory dedicated to Saint Aurelia containing three brass images of their tutelary deities. Columbanus commanded Gallus, who knew the local language, to preach to the inhabitants, and many were converted. The three brass images were destroyed, and Columbanus blessed the little church, placing the relics of Saint Aurelia beneath the altar. A monastery was erected, Mehrerau Abbey, and the brethren observed their regular life. Columbanus stayed in Bregenz for about one year.[1] Following an uprising against the community, possibly related to that region being taken over by the saint's old enemy King Theuderic II, Columbanus resolved to cross the Alps into Italy.[1] Gallus remained in this area and died there 646. About seventy years later at the place of Gallus' cell the Monastery of Saint Gall was founded, which in itself was the origin of the city of St. Gallen again about another three hundred years later.


Columbanus is located in Alps
Columbanus in the Alps and Italy

Columbanus arrived in Milan in 612 and was warmly greeted by King Agilulf and Queen Theodelinda of the Lombards.[Note 4] He immediately began refuting the teachings of Arianism, which had enjoyed a degree of acceptance in Italy. He wrote a treatise against Arianism, which has since been lost. Queen Theodelinda, the devout daughter of Duke Garibald I of Bavaria, played an important role in restoring Nicene Christianity to a position of primacy against Arianism, and was largely responsible for the king's conversion to Christianity.[1]

At the king's request, Columbanus wrote a letter to Pope Boniface IV on the controversy over the Three Chapters—writings by Syrian bishops suspected of Nestorianism, which had been condemned in the fifth century as heresy. Pope Gregory I had tolerated in Lombardy those persons who defended the Three Letters, among them King Agilulf. Columbanus agreed to take up the issue on behalf of the king. The letter begins with an apology that a "foolish Scot (Scottus, Irishman)" would be writing for a Lombard king. After acquainting the pope with the imputations brought against him, he entreats the pontiff to prove his orthodoxy and assemble a council. He writes that his freedom of speech is consistent with the custom of his country.[1] Some of the language used in the letter might now be regarded as disrespectful, but in that time, faith and austerity could be more indulgent.[19] At the same time, the letter expresses the most affectionate and impassioned devotion to the Holy See.

We Irish, though dwelling at the far ends of the earth, are all disciples of Saint Peter and Saint Paul ... we are bound to the Chair of Peter, and although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair alone is she looked on as great and illustrious among us ... On account of the two Apostles of Christ, you are almost celestial, and Rome is the head of the whole world, and of the Churches.

If Columbanus' zeal for orthodoxy caused him to overstep the limits of discretion, his real attitude towards Rome is sufficiently clear, calling the pope "his Lord and Father in Christ", the "Chosen Watchman", and the "First Pastor, set higher than all mortals".[20]

Bobbio-abbazia di san colombano-esterno6
Facade of the Abbey in Bobbio

King Agilulf gave Columbanus a tract of land called Bobbio between Milan and Genoa near the Trebbia river, situated in a defile of the Apennine Mountains, to be used as a base for the conversion of the Lombard people. The area contained a ruined church and wastelands known as Ebovium, which had formed part of the lands of the papacy prior to the Lombard invasion. Columbanus wanted this secluded place, for while enthusiastic in the instruction of the Lombards he preferred solitude for his monks and himself. Next to the little church, which was dedicated to Saint Peter, Columbanus erected a monastery in 614. Bobbio Abbey at its foundation followed the Rule of Saint Columbanus, based on the monastic practices of Celtic Christianity. For centuries it remained the stronghold of orthodoxy in northern Italy.[1][Note 5]


Bobbio bridge
Stone bridge over the Trebbia river leading to Bobbio Abbey in northern Italy

During the last year of his life, Columbanus received messenges from King Chlothar II, inviting the saint to return to Burgundy, now that his enemies were dead. Columbanus did not return, but requested that the king should always protect his monks at Luxeuil Abbey. He prepared for death by retiring to his cave on the mountainside overlooking the Trebbia river, where, according to a tradition, he had dedicated an oratory to Our Lady.[21] Columbanus died at Bobbio on 21 November 615.

Rule of Saint Columbanus

The Rule of Saint Columbanus embodied the customs of Bangor Abbey and other Irish monasteries. Much shorter than the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Rule of Saint Columbanus consists of ten chapters, on the subjects of obedience, silence, food, poverty, humility, chastity, choir offices, discretion, mortification, and perfection.[22]

In the first chapter, Columbanus introduces the great principle of his Rule: obedience, absolute and unreserved. The words of seniors should always be obeyed, just as "Christ obeyed the Father up to death for us."[22] One manifestation of this obedience was constant hard labour designed to subdue the flesh, exercise the will in daily self-denial, and set an example of industry in cultivation of the soil. The least deviation from the Rule entailed corporal punishment, or a severe form of fasting.[7] In the second chapter, Columbanus instructs that the rule of silence be "carefully observed", since it is written: "But the nurture of righteousness is silence and peace". He also warns, "Justly will they be damned who would not say just things when they could, but preferred to say with garrulous loquacity what is evil ..."[22] In the third chapter, Columbanus instructs, "Let the monks' food be poor and taken in the evening, such as to avoid repletion, and their drink such as to avoid intoxication, so that it may both maintain life and not harm ..."[22] Columbanus continues:

For indeed those who desire eternal rewards must only consider usefulness and use. Use of life must be moderated just as toil must be moderated, since this is true discretion, that the possibility of spiritual progress may be kept with a temperance that punishes the flesh. For if temperance exceeds measure, it will be a vice and not a virtue; for virtue maintains and retains many goods. Therefore we must fast daily, just as we must feed daily; and while we must eat daily, we must gratify the body more poorly and sparingly ..."[22]

Columbanus at Bobbio
Fresco of Saint Columbanus in Brugnato Cathedral

In the fourth chapter, Columbanus presents the virtue of poverty and of overcoming greed, and that monks should be satisfied with "small possessions of utter need, knowing that greed is a leprosy for monks". Columbanus also instructs that "nakedness and disdain of riches are the first perfection of monks, but the second is the purging of vices, the third the most perfect and perpetual love of God and unceasing affection for things divine, which follows on the forgetfulness of earthly things. Since this is so, we have need of few things, according to the word of the Lord, or even of one."[22] In the fifth chapter, Columbanus warns against vanity, reminding the monks of Jesus' warning in Luke 16:15: "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight."[22] In the sixth chapter, Columbanus instructs that "a monk's chastity is indeed judged in his thoughts" and warns, "What profit is it if he be virgin in body, if he be not virgin in mind? For God, being Spirit."[22]

In the seventh chapter, Columbanus instituted a service of perpetual prayer, known as laus perennis, by which choir succeeded choir, both day and night.[23] In the eighth chapter, Columbanus stresses the importance of discretion in the lives of monks to avoid "the downfall of some, who beginning without discretion and passing their time without a sobering knowledge, have been unable to complete a praiseworthy life." Monks are instructed to pray to God for to "illumine this way, surrounded on every side by the world's thickest darkness".[22] Columbanus continues:

So discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete. For from the beginning either class has been divided like light and darkness, that is, good and evil, after evil began through the devil's agency to exist by the corruption of good, but through God's agency Who first illumines and then divides. Thus righteous Abel chose the good, but unrighteous Cain fell upon evil."[22]

In the ninth chapter, Columbanus presents mortification as an essential element in the lives of monks, who are instructed, "Do nothing without counsel." Monks are warned to "beware of a proud independence, and learn true lowliness as they obey without murmuring and hesitation."[22] According to the Rule, there are three components to mortification: "not to disagree in mind, not to speak as one pleases with the tongue, not to go anywhere with complete freedom." This mirrors the words of Jesus, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38) In the tenth and final chapter, Columbanus regulates forms of penance (often corporal) for offences, and it is here that the Rule of Saint Columbanus differs significantly from that of Saint Benedict.[1]

The habit of the monks consisted of a tunic of undyed wool, over which was worn the cuculla, or cowl, of the same material. A great deal of time was devoted to various kinds of manual labour, not unlike the life in monasteries of other rules. The Rule of Saint Columbanus was approved of by the Synod of Mâcon in 627, but it was superseded at the close of the century by the Rule of Saint Benedict. For several centuries in some of the greater monasteries the two rules were observed conjointly.[1]


Columbanus did not lead a perfect life. According to Jonas and other sources, he could be impetuous and even headstrong, for by nature he was eager, passionate, and dauntless. These qualities were both the source of his power and the cause of his mistakes.[1] His virtues, however, were quite remarkable. Like many saints, he had a great love for God's creatures. Stories claim that as he walked in the woods, it was not uncommon for birds to land on his shoulders to be caressed, or for squirrels to run down from the trees and nestle in the folds of his cowl.[1] Although a strong defender of Irish traditions, he never wavered in showing deep respect for the Holy See as the supreme authority. His influence in Europe was due to the conversions he effected and to the rule that he composed. It may be that the example and success of Saint Columba in Caledonia inspired him to similar exertions.[1] The life of Columbanus stands as the prototype of missionary activity in Europe, followed by such men as Saint Kilian, Vergilius of Salzburg, Donatus of Fiesole, Wilfrid, Willibrord, Suitbert of Kaiserwerdt, Saint Boniface, and Ursicinus of Saint-Ursanne.[1]


The following are the principal miracles attributed to his intercession:[1]

  1. Procuring food for a sick monk and curing the wife of his benefactor
  2. Escaping injury while surrounded by wolves
  3. Causing a bear to evacuate a cave at his biddings
  4. Producing a spring of water near his cave
  5. Replenishing the Luxeuil granary
  6. Multiplying bread and beer for his community
  7. Curing sick monks, who rose from their beds at his request to reap the harvest
  8. Giving sight to a blind man at Orleans
  9. Destroying with his breath a cauldron of beer prepared for a pagan festival
  10. Taming a bear and yoking it to a plough

Jonas relates the occurrence of a miracle during Columbanus' time in Bregenz, when that region was experiencing a period of severe famine.

Although they were without food, they were bold and unterrified in their faith, so that they obtained food from the Lord. After their bodies had been exhausted by three days of fasting, they found so great an abundance of birds, just as the quails formerly covered the camp of the children of Israel, that the whole country near there was filled with birds. The man of God knew that this food had been scattered on the ground for his own safety and that of his brethren, and that the birds had come only because he was there. He ordered his followers first to render grateful praises to the Creator, and then to take the birds as food. And it was a wonderful and stupendous miracle; for the birds were seized according to the father's commands and did not attempt to fly away. The manna of birds remained for three days. On the fourth day, a priest from an adjacent city, warned by divine inspiration, sent a supply of grain to Saint Columban. When the supply of grain arrived, the Omnipotent, who had furnished the winged food to those in want, immediately commanded the phalanxes of birds to depart. We learned this from Eustasius, who was present with the others, under the command of the servant of God. He said that no one of them remembered ever having seen birds of such a kind before; and the food was of so pleasant savor that it surpassed royal viands. Oh, wonderful gift of divine mercy![24]


Monastery ruins at Annegray
Bobbio Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms of Bobbio with doves, symbol of Columbanus

In France, the ruins of Columbanus' first monastery at Annegray are legally protected through the efforts of the Association Internationale des Amis de St Columban, which purchased the site in 1959. The association also owns and protects the site containing the cave, which acted as Columbanus' cell, and the holy well, which he created nearby.[12] At Luxeuil-les-Bains, the Basilica of Saint Peter stands on the site of Columbanus' first church. A statue near the entrance, unveiled in 1947, shows him denouncing the immoral life of King Theuderic II. Formally an abbey church, the basilica contains old monastic buildings, which have been used as a minor seminary since the nineteenth century. It is dedicated to Columbanus and houses a bronze statue of him in its courtyard.[12]

In Lombardy, San Colombano al Lambro in Milan, San Colombano Belmonte in Turin, and San Colombano Certénoli in Genoa all take their names from the saint.[25] The last monastery erected by Columbanus at Bobbio remained for centuries the stronghold of orthodoxy in northern Italy.[1]

If Bobbio Abbey in Italy became a citadel of faith and learning, Luxeuil Abbey in France became the "nursery of saints and apostles".[1] The monastery produced sixty-three apostles who carried his rule, together with the Gospel, into France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.[26] These disciples of Columbanus are accredited with founding over one hundred different monasteries.[27] The canton and town still bearing the name of St. Gallen testify to how well one of his disciples succeeded.

The Missionary Society of Saint Columban, founded in 1916, and the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban, founded in 1924, are both dedicated to Columbanus.


Bobbio-abbazia di san colombano-cripta3
Remains of Columbanus, Bobbio Abbey crypt

The remains of Columbanus are preserved in the crypt at Bobbio Abbey. Many miracles have been credited to his intercession. In 1482, the relics were placed in a new shrine and laid beneath the altar of the crypt. The sacristy at Bobbio possesses a portion of the skull of the saint, his knife, wooden cup, bell, and an ancient water vessel, formerly containing sacred relics and said to have been given to him by Pope Gregory I. According to some authorities, twelve teeth of the saint were taken from the tomb in the fifteenth century and kept in the treasury, but these have since disappeared.[28]

Columbanus is named in the Roman Martyrology on 23 November, which is his feast day in Ireland. His feast is observed by the Benedictines on 24 November. Columbanus is the patron saint of motorcyclists. In art, Columbanus is represented bearded bearing the monastic cowl, holding in his hand a book with an Irish satchel, and standing in the midst of wolves. Sometimes he is depicted in the attitude of taming a bear, or with sun-beams over his head.[29]



  1. ^ Walker's edition is also available on CELT (University College Cork), a website that provides Irish medieval sources with English translations. A critical edition of Jonas' Vita Columbani was published in 1905 by Bruno Krusch in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores Rerum Germaincarum in usum schoarum, vol. 37, Hannover: Hahn 1905. See also Internet Medieval Sourcebook.
  2. ^ Cluaninis is derived from the Irish words "Cluan Inis", which mean "meadow island". The remains of the monastery can be seen at Bellanaleck, County Fermanagh.
  3. ^ The Italians themselves followed a third system of reckoning Easter, based on the improvements to Victorius's system introduced by Dionysius Exiguus at the time he devised the Anno Domini dating system.[15]
  4. ^ Some scholars believe that Columbanus made two journeys into Italy, which were confounded by Jonas. On his first journey, Columbanus went to Rome and received from Pope Gregory I sacred relics.[17] This may possibly explain the traditional spot in St. Peter's, where Pope Gregory I and Columbanus are supposed to have met.[18]
  5. ^ Bobbio Abbey may have been the model for the monastery in northern Italy in Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Edmonds, Columba (1908). "St. Columbanus". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ "St. Columban's 1400th death anniversary celebrated in Hong Kong". UCAN. Sunday Examiner. December 11, 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  3. ^ Flechner and Meeder, The Irish in Early Medieval Europe, pp. 1–18, 195–213, 231–41, on Googlebooks
  4. ^ Walker, G. S. Murdoch, ed. (1957). Columbani Opera. Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 978-1-85500-050-6.
  5. ^ Lapidge, Michael (1997). Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-667-5.
  6. ^ O'Hara, Alexander, and Faye Taylor. "Aristocratic and Monastic Conflict in Tenth-Century Italy: the Case of Bobbio and the Miracula Sancti Columbani" in Viator. Medieval and Renaissance Studies. 44:3 (2013), pp. 43–61.
  7. ^ a b c Smith 2012, p. 201.
  8. ^ Jonas 643, p. 6.
  9. ^ Jonas 643, p. 7.
  10. ^ Wallace 1995, p. 43.
  11. ^ Jonas 643, p. 10.
  12. ^ a b c "Columbanus Today: Places of His Ministry". Monastic Ireland. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "St. Columbanus". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Jonas 643, p. 17.
  15. ^ Blackburn 1999, p. 767.
  16. ^ Cusack 2002, p. 173.
  17. ^ Stokes 2007, p. 132
  18. ^ Moran 2010, p. 105
  19. ^ Montalembert 1861, p. 440.
  20. ^ Allnatt 2007, p. 105.
  21. ^ Montalembert 1861, p. 444.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Columbanus Hibernus. Walker, G.S.M., ed. "Monk's Rules". Corpus of Electronic Texts. University College Cork. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  23. ^ Montalembert 1898, II p. 405.
  24. ^ Jonas 643, p. 54.
  25. ^ Webb, Alfred (2009). A Compendium of Irish Biography. Charleston: BiblioLife. ISBN 978-1116472684.
  26. ^ Stokes, p. 254.
  27. ^ Stokes, p. 74.
  28. ^ Stokes, p. 183.
  29. ^ Husenheth, p. 33.


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External links

Antiphonary of Bangor

The Antiphonary of Bangor (Antiphonarium Monasterii Benchorensis) is an ancient Latin manuscript, supposed to have been originally written at Bangor Abbey in modern-day Northern Ireland.


Bobbio (Bobbiese: Bòbi; Ligurian: Bêubbi; Latin: Bobium) is a small town and commune in the province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy. It is located in the Trebbia River valley southwest of the town Piacenza. There is also an abbey and a diocese of the same name. Bobbio is the administrative center of the Unione Montana Valli Trebbia e Luretta.

Bobbio Abbey

Bobbio Abbey (Italian: Abbazia di San Colombano) is a monastery founded by Irish Saint Columbanus in 614, around which later grew up the town of Bobbio, in the province of Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. It is dedicated to Saint Columbanus. It was famous as a centre of resistance to Arianism and as one of the greatest libraries in the Middle Ages, and was the original on which the monastery in Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose was based, together with Sacra di San Michele. The abbey was dissolved under the French administration in 1803, although many of the buildings remain in other uses.

Cheddar Palace

The Cheddar Palace was established in the 9th century, in Cheddar, Somerset, England. It was a royal hunting lodge in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods and hosted the Witenagemot in the 10th century.

Nearby are the ruins of the 14th century St Columbanus Chapel. Roman artifacts and a burial have also been discovered. The site of the palace is now marked by concrete slabs within the grounds of The Kings of Wessex Academy.

Columba Murphy

Columba Murphy, SS.CC. (born James Murphy; 1806 – by 1848) was French Catholic priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious institute of the Roman Catholic Church. He helped found the Roman Catholic mission in the Gambier Islands and was one of the first Catholic missionaries to arrive in the Kingdom of Hawaii during the persecution by Kaahumanu, Kamehameha III and their American Congregationalist advisors.


Saint Comgall (c. 510–520 – 597/602), an early Irish saint, was the founder and abbot of the great Irish monastery at Bangor in present-day Northern Ireland.


Dagán was an Irish bishop in Anglo-Saxon England during the early part of the 7th century.

Dagán is known from a letter written by Archbishop Laurence of Canterbury to the Irish bishops and abbots, in which Laurence attempted to persuade the Irish clergy to accept the Roman method of calculating the date of Easter. Dagán is mentioned in the letter as having recently arrived in Kent. Laurence mentions that Dagán had refused to either share a roof with the Roman missionaries or to eat with them. The full mention of Dagán is "But we have learned from bishop Dagán who came to the above-mentioned island [Britannia] and from abbot Columbanus in Gaul, that they [the Irish clergy] do not differ from the Britons in their way of life. For when Bishop Dagan came to us he refused to take food, not only with us but even in the very house where we took meals." The letter is preserved in Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, but as it is recorded there it lacks any closing formulas, so dating it is difficult. Although a date of shortly after 610 has been put forward by Paul Grossjean, the letter could have been written at any time between around 605, when Laurence became archbishop and around 616, when King Æthelberht of Kent died and a pagan reaction against the missionaries set in.The letter provides no sure dating for when the missionaries met with Dagán, as it does not specify that the meeting took place during Laurence's tenure of Canterbury, merely that it had occurred prior to the letter being sent. This gives a possibility of between the missionaries arrival and Laurence's death. The Gregorian mission arrived in Kent in 597, and it known that Augustine of Canterbury, the leader of the mission, met native Celtic Church bishops at least once, although the meeting did not go well.Besides the letter, which is the only contemporary record of Dagán, there are mentions of him in Irish annals and in an episcopal list preserved in the Book of Leinster, but none of these other mentions are contemporary to Dagan's lifetime. Nor is there a hagiography on his life. He should not be confused with Daig mac Cairill, the patron saint of Inis Cain, who died around 587. Occasionally Dagán has been claimed as a monk of Bangor, but this appears to stem from confusion with Daig mac Cairill, who was a monk there. The other mentions of Dagán give him a death date of around 640. Later scholars, including John Bale, attributed a letter entitled ad Brytannorum ecclesias, but this is mistaken. Further late records have Dagán moving to Scotland, where he settled at Whithorn and became "ruling cleric" there.The Stowe Missal as well as the Martyrology of Tallaght, both of which were composed about 830, show that Dagán was revered as a saint at that point. The Martyrology of Tallaght gives a feast date of 12 March for him, and states that the date is his death date. Other maryrologies give a feast date of 13 September, which may mean that there were two different Dagán's who early writers confused.The historian Roy Flechner has pointed out that it was possible that Dagán's refusal to share a meal or a roof with the Gregorian missionaries was a form of excommunication that is described in some Irish legal books.Some historians have identified this Bishop Dagán with Dagán of Inber Doile, who died around 640, and was either a bishop or priest at Inber Doile. Objections to this identification include the fact that to have been consecrated a bishop at the canonically minimum age of 30, he would have been quite old at his death in 640 or so. Another objection is that many of the documents mentioning Dagán of Inber Doile do not style him a bishop, although a few do. Definitive proof of whether or not the Dagán the bishop of Laurence's letter is the same as Dagán of Inber Doile is lacking.Flechner has also pointed out that a letter of Columbanus mentions Dagon, the Philistine fertility god. However, according to Flechner, Columbanus was fond of puns dealing with proper names and may have also intended the reference to Dagon to also refer to Dagán, the Irish bishop mentioned by Laurence.

Double monastery

A double monastery (also double house) is a monastery combining a separate community of monks and one of nuns, joined in one institution. More common in the monasticism of Eastern Christianity, where they are found since the 4th century, in the West the establishment of double monasteries became popular after Columbanus and were found in Anglo-Saxon England and Gaul. Double monasteries were forbidden by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, though it took many years for the decree to be enforced. In a significantly different way, double monasteries were revived again after the 12th century, when a number of religious houses were established on this pattern, among Benedictines and possibly the Dominicans. The 14th-century Bridgittines were consciously founded using this form of community.

Examples include the original Coldingham Monastery in Scotland, Barking Abbey in London, and Einsiedeln Abbey and Fahr Monastery in Switzerland, controlled by the abbot of Einsiedeln. In general, monks and nuns lived in separate buildings but were usually united under an Abbess as head of the entire household, and would have chanted the Liturgy of the Hours and attended Mass together in the Chapel. Either an abbess or an abbot would normally have control over both houses, and it was only in exceptional circumstances that each would have its own superior.

Felix of Burgundy

Felix of Burgundy, also known as Felix of Dunwich (died 8 March 647 or 648), was a saint and the first bishop of the East Angles. He is widely credited as the man who introduced Christianity to the kingdom of East Anglia. Almost all that is known about the saint originates from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed by Bede in about 731, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Bede praised Felix for delivering "all the province of East Anglia from long-standing unrighteousness and unhappiness".

Felix, who originated from the Frankish kingdom of Burgundy, may have been a priest at one of the monasteries in Francia founded by the Irish missionary Columbanus: the existence of a Bishop of Châlons with the same name may not be a coincidence. Felix travelled from his homeland of Burgundy to Canterbury before being sent by Honorius to Sigeberht of East Anglia's kingdom in about 630, (by sea to Babingley in Norfolk, according to local legend). On arrival in East Anglia, Sigeberht gave him a see at Dommoc (possibly Walton, Suffolk or Dunwich in Suffolk). According to Bede, Felix helped Sigeberht to establish a school in his kingdom "where boys could be taught letters". He died on 8 March 647 or 648, having been bishop for seventeen years. His relics were translated from Dommoc to Soham Abbey and then to the abbey at Ramsey.

After his death, Felix was venerated as a saint: several English churches are dedicated to him. Felix's feast date is 8 March.

Hiberno-Scottish mission

The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert. There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic missions initiated by Gaelic monks from Ireland and the western coast of modern-day Scotland, which contributed to the spread of Christianity and established monasteries in Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages. The earliest recorded Irish mission can be dated to 563 with the foundation of Iona by the Irish monk Saint Columba. Columba is said by Bede and Adamnán to have ministered to the Gaels of Dál Riada and converted the northern Pictish kingdoms. Over the next centuries more missions followed and spread through Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire. These early missions were, from the 18th and 19th centuries, so-called 'Celtic Christianity', though aside from some idiosyncratic cultural features, it was orthodox and maintained relationships with the Holy See.The Latin term Scotti refers to the Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland and the Irish who settled in western Scotland. In early medieval times Ireland was known as "Éire" (Irish), "Hibernia" and "Scotia" (Latin). By the end of the 11th century it generally referred to Gaelic Scotland, which had become Gaelicised by settlers from Ireland, and from where the name Scotland derives. Thus, the "Scots" missionaries who so influential in the early Church history of Germany included men from both modern countries, though mainly from Ireland.Schottenklöster (German for "Irish monasteries") is the name applied to the monastic foundations of Gaelic missionaries in Continental Europe, particularly to the Scottish Benedictine monasteries in Germany, which in the beginning of the 13th century were combined into one congregation whose abbot-general was the Abbot of the Scots monastery at Regensburg. Ireland's sobriquet "Island of Saints and Scholars" derives from this period, when scholars and missionaries from Ireland exerted great influence on Continental Europe.

Jonas of Bobbio

Monk Jonas of Bobbio or Jonas Bobiensis (Sigusia, now Susa, Italy, c. 600 – after 659) was a Columbanian monk and writer of hagiography, among which his Life of Saint Columbanus is notable.

In 618, Jonas arrived at the monastery of Bobbio Abbey in the province of Pavia, just three years after the death of its founder Columbanus, and he asserted that he had based his account of the great Irish saint on the testimony of persons who had known him intimately, such as the saint's companions.

Jonas was appointed to a position of confidence, probably that of secretary to the abbot Attala (died 627) and to his successor Bertulf, whom Jonas accompanied on a journey to Rome in 628. Immediately after his return he moved to Gaul, and his life of Eustace, Abbot of Luxeuil, (died 629), reflects personal acquaintance.

Jonas was appealed to by Saint Amand for assistance in his missionary work among the pagans of what is now Belgium and northern France, which occasioned his vita of Saint Vedast or Vaast, the first Frankish Bishop of Arras. In fulfillment of a promise made to the Black Monks of Bobbio during a short return visit to the monastery in 639, he wrote between 640 and 643 his principal work, the Life of St. Columbanus. The work mainly focuses on proper practices of Christianity and the events which occurred in a female monastery related to "Ye Olde Devil."

In 659, when he was sent by the Queen-Regent Balthild on a mission to Chalon-sur-Saône, he was referred to as "abbot", though of which monastery it cannot now be determined. During this journey he sojourned for a few days at the monastery of Réôme (Reomans, now Moutiers-Saint-Jean) in the diocese of Langres. To comply with a request made by the monks on this occasion he wrote the life of their founder.

The other works of Jonas are lives of the abbots Attala and Bertulf of Bobbio, of abbot Eustace of Luxeuil, an abbey founded by Columbanus that retained close personal ties with Bobbio, and of the abbess Burgundofara (or Fara) of Evoriac (modern Faremoutiers).

Jonas personally knew Eustace, Attala, and Bertulf. Bede incorporated these lives into his Ecclesiastical History, while Flodoard turned that of Columbanus into hexameter verse. The "Life of St. Fara" is chiefly an account of miraculous events alleged to have occurred during this saint's rule at Evoriac, but Jonas' elaborate and fantastically miraculous account contains nuggets of historical information that throw light upon a poorly documented time.

The works of Jonas, exclusive of the "Life of St. Vaast", are printed in Patrologia Latina LXXXVII, 1011–88; a better edition by Krusch is in Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Script. Rer. Mer., III, 406-13, 505-17; IV, 61-152 (Hannover, 1896 and 1902).

Knights of Saint Columbanus

The Order of the Knights of Saint Columbanus (Irish: Ridirí Naomh Cholumba) is an Irish national Catholic fraternal organisation. Founded by Canon James K. O'Neill in Belfast, Ireland in 1915, it was named in honour of the Irish saint, Saint Columbanus. Initially established as a mutual benefit society to working class Catholics, it has developed into a fraternal benefit society dedicated to providing charitable services to all areas of the Irish community.There are 68 councils across all 32 counties on the island of Ireland. Membership of the order is open to all practicing Catholic men and their families aged 18 and over. There is a youth division of the order open to younger men aged from 16 up called the Associate Knights of St Columbanus. The Order is a founding member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights.The Pope John Paul II Awards have been chosen by the Knights of St Columbanus as its National Project and have been financially supporting the Awards throughout Ireland. The Award, established in 2006 in the Diocese of Derry, recognises and encourages active involvement of 16-18 year olds in the life of their parish and community.

Luxeuil Abbey

Luxeuil Abbey (French pronunciation: ​[lyksœj]), the Abbaye Saint-Pierre et Sain-Paul, was one of the oldest and best-known monasteries in Burgundy, located in what is now the département of Haute-Saône in Franche-Comté, France.

Mo Sinu moccu Min

Mo Sinu moccu Min, also known as Sinilis, Sinlán Moccu Mín (died 610) was an Irish scholar.

Fifth abbot of Bangor, "Mo-Sinu maccu Min ... was the first of the Hibernenses who learned the computus by heart from a certain Greek. Afterwards, Mo-Chuoróc maccu Neth Sémon, whom the Romani styled doctor of the whole world, and a pupil of the aforesaid scholar, in the island called Crannach of Duin Lethglaisse (Downpatrick), committed this knowledge to writing, lest it should fade from memory." This computus is thought to have been an oro numerorum.

It is thought that he is identical to the Sinilis who tutored Columbanus, according to Jonas of Bobbio. If so, he would have taught Columbanus in the years prior to his departure to France about 585.

Robin Flower wrote of him that "It is clear that particular attention was paid to historical studies at Bangor, and the earliest Irish chronicle was probably a production of that house. It has been attributed with good reason to Sinlán Moccu Mín, that Sinlanus who is described in the list of abbots in the Antiphonary of Bangor as the 'famed teacher of the world.'" Flower also suggested that he was the teacher in the monastic school of Bangor on Cranny Island in Strangford Lough, and that the chronicle, like the computus, "was compiled under his supervision rather than actually written in his own hands."

Saint-Colomban, Quebec

Saint-Colomban is a city in the regional county municipality of La Rivière-du-Nord in Québec, Canada. It is situated in the Laurentides region of Québec and was named in honour of Saint Columbanus.

The pioneer responsible for developing the village was the priest John Falvey, who constructed the parish and preached to the first parishioners.

Saint-Colomban was also the birthplace of Mr. Justice Emmett Hall, a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada widely considered to be one of the fathers of Medicare.

Saint Gall

Saint Gall, or Gallus (c. 550 – c. 646, German: Sankt Gallus) according to hagiographic tradition was a disciple and one of the traditional twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent. Saint Deicolus was the elder brother of Gall.

St Columbanus' College

St. Columbanus' College (Irish: Coláiste Naomh Columbán) is a Roman Catholic secondary school situated on the Ballymaconnell Road, Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. Its main education board of choice is CCEA, but the school also uses AQA, Edexcel and OCR for certain subjects.


Waldalenus or Wandalenus (late 6th – early 7th century), dux in the region between the Alps and the Jura, in the Frankish Kingdom of Burgundy, was a Frankish magnate who served as mayor of the Austrasian palace at Metz from 581, during the minority of Childebert II.One of his seats of government (palatium) as Patricius of Burgundy was at Arlay on the "Salt Road", noted in 597. There his son, Donatus of Luxeuil, would found the Abbey of Saint-Vincent, destroyed by Otto II of Burgundy.

He was a well-known patron of Columbanus at Luxeuil Abbey (founded around 585–90), where he dedicated one son to the Church, and thus provided early support for Hiberno-Frankish monasticism in Western Europe: "This family's connections stretched into Provence and would prove highly influential in seventh-century Frankish politics," Marilyn Dunn notes. Both Eustasius and Waldebert, kinsmen of Waldalenus, succeeded Columbanus as second and third abbots of Luxeuil. The extended family of Waldelenus controlled the Alpine passes approached from Briançon, those of Susa (the Col de Montgenèvre), Embrun, and Gap. Abbo, Patrician of Provence and rector of Maurienne and Susa, the opponent of Maurontus, came from the family of Waldelenus.His opponents in Burgundy represented the influence of Willibad (died 642), the Patrician of Burgundy (or Burgundian Provence) Willibad may not have been a Frank but perhaps a Burgundian, one of the last representatives of the native nobility. The centre of Willibad's power was Lyon, Vienne, and Valence. Willibad continued to be confronted by the supporters of Columbanus, Waldalenus' son, Chramnelenus of Besançon, Chramnelenus' brother-in-law Amalgar of Dijon and Wandalbert of Chambly.Waldalenus was married to Flavia, noble in birth and bearing, according to the chronicler of Columbanus and his foundations, Jonas of Bobbio, but the couple were barren, until they beseeched Columbanus to intercede for a miraculous pregnancy. Columbanus required that the first-born be dedicated to the church, and consequently Donatus, christened by Columbanus himself as the "gift", was raised and educated at Luxeuil and was made Bishop of Besançon. The second son was Chramnelenus, and there were two daughters that the Merovingian chronicler did not think to name.Flavia outlived her husband and founded a convent of nuns at the dynasty's headquarters, Besançon, where her son Donatus was bishop.

A later Waldalenus of this house, Abbot of Bèze, came to be venerated as a saint; is noticed in a diplomatic document of September 677.

Windy Arbour

Windy Arbour (Irish: Na Glasáin) is a small suburban village in the Dundrum area of Dublin, Ireland. Situated between Dundrum and Milltown, along the banks of the Slang River (also Dundrum or Slann River).

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