St. Columba: At a glance

Abbot of Iona
7 December, 521 
at Garten, Cnty. Donegal, Ireland
d. 9 June, 597

Feast day: June 9
Patron of Derry, floods, bookbinders, poets, Ireland, Scotland

St. Columba was the son of Fedlimid and Eithne, of the Uí Néill clan, and was born in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, Donegal. On his father's side, he was a great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish king of the fifth century. Hen entered monastic life and was ordained a priest. According to tradition, around the year 560, he  was involved in a dispute with St. Finnian about a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript in the scriptorium under the orders of St. Finnian. Columba sought to keep the copy to which Saint Finnian disputed his right to it.

This dispute was the cause of the Battle of Cul Dreimhne, held in 561, and in which there were many casualties (the copy of the Psalter mentioned in this story is traditionally identified with St. Columba Cathach). As penance for these deaths, Columba decided to go as a missionary to Scotland to convert as many people as were killed in the battle. He went into exile in Ireland, to return only once, several years later.

In 563 he landed on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland, where he built the monastery that was to become famous. 

With SS Comgall Canice and spread the gospel to the Picts, but also developed a monastic rule that many continued until the introduction of St. Benedicts. The thirty-two remaining years of Columba's life were mainly spent in preaching the Christian Faith to the inhabitants of the glens and wooded straths of Northern Scotland. He died on Iona and is also known as Colm, Colum and Columcille.

The following links provide an in-depth look at the life of St. Columba.