June 2011 - St.Columba

St. Columba of Iona,


(521 - 597)

Feast Day – June 9th

St. Columba was born about 521 AD in Donegal, Ireland.  His father was Fedlimid, son of Fergus, of the Cenel Conaill family which ruled over County Donegal. When he was young, St. Columba was tutored by a priest who was one of the greatest teachers in Ireland at the time. Destined to become a monarch he forsook all worldly things and adopted the ascetic life of a monk.  He established the great monastery at Derry and trained monks to copy and preserve scholarly manuscripts and books. He was devoted to the preservation of knowledge through collecting, copying and distributing manuscripts and books gathered from throughout the world. From Derry, he sent learned monks to establish daughter monastic communities throughout Ireland and Scotland. St. Columba himself crossed over to the island of Iona and established his most famous monastery there.    

Several early manuscripts exist about St. Columba. The ‘Cathach of St. Columba’, dated around 600 AD, exhibits features found in Coptic manuscripts. The Coptic Orthodox Church, well known for the "desert fathers" influenced the early Celtic monks and saints, who adopted their monastic model. It is believed that early Byzantine and Syrian monastic communities, with their strong emphasis on the desert hermit tradition, also influenced the development of Celtic monasticism.

Iona became a great centre of scholarship and learning, and for the copying of manuscripts and books. The beautifully ornate ‘Book of Kells’, for example, was created at Iona by monks of St. Columba’s monastery.  The Celtic saints and the early Celtic church and its communities continue to inspire many today and scholarly research continues to shed light on their extraordinary lives. Their light, in turn, continues to shine, even into our modern, secular times.

St. Columba died on 9 June 597 AD, at the age of 76, on Iona, as told by St. Adomnan in his "Life of Columba".


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