Who Was St Columba?

St. Columba, was born around 521 AD, probably in Donegal, Ireland. A person of royal descent he studied at Moville under St. Finnian and then in Leinster at the monastery of Clonard under another St. Finnian. 

Typical of aristocratic families at that time, Columba was educated by a foster father, a priest named Cruithanecan. Perhaps this indicates that he was already marked for a future in faith leadership. Of course, his early education would follow a monastic model.  He was ordained before he was twenty-five and spent the next fifteen years preaching and setting up foundations at Derry, Durrow, and Kells. The great turning point in his life came about 563 AD. Possibly because of a family feud leading to pitched battles which resulted in the deaths of 3000 and for which he considered himself partly responsible he left Ireland at 42 and landed on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. There he built the monastery which was to become a springboard for the evangelisation of Scotland.

His greatest triumph was when, together with St Comgall and St Kenneth, Columba called on Pictish King Brude at his fortress overlooking what is now Inverness. Brude refused to allow the missionaries into the fortress, but at the sign of the cross being made by Columba the barred gates of the fortress simply opened. The story goes on to record that the King, overawed by this miracle, was converted on the spot, with the rest of the Picts not long after him.  With SS Canice and Comgall he continued to spread the gospel to the Picts and in the later part of his life, confined himself to the abbey on Iona where he developed a monastic rule which many followed until the introduction of St. Benedict’s. His brother monks saw him as a living saint.

He died on Iona and is also known as Colm, Colum and Columcille.

For further reading on the history of St Columba please click here

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