Feast Day of St Colmcille/ St Columba 9th June 2013

  • Click here for a site on the pilgrimage place in Glencolumkille, a rural parish in County Donegal, to honour the patron saint and protector of Donegal, St. Columba.

The second is a new multimedia resource on St Colmcille and related themes which might be of interest.The resource is aimed at schools but there's plenty for adults here to explore and enjoy too.  

                            I'll be doing another post on the Book of Kells soon !!

I have always had an interest for this Irish saint Colmcille, aka St. Columba, as his birthplace was in Garton near Letterkenny, Co Donegal where my father was born. My dad also chose this saint as his confirmation name.

Colmcille was born in 521. By 545, he had founded his first monastery in Derry and he went on to found over sixty monasteries and churches in Ireland.

The name Colmcille means "Dove Of The Church."  

He became a pupil at the monastic school at Clonard Abbey, situated on the River Boyne in modern County Meath. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied here, It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction at Clonard was 3,000.

Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Columba was one of these. He became a monk and was ordained as a priest.

 In 563, Colmcille and twelve monks left Ireland in disgrace sailing from Derry to the island of Iona, off the West coast of Scotland. The reason for his exile followed a dispute over copyright .Apparently Columba copied a psalter or manuscript at a scriptorium under the rule of Saint Finian. Saint Finian disputed the right of Colmcille to keep the copy. King Diarmaid was asked to determine the owner of the copy, who ruled as follows: 'To every cow her calf and to every book its copy.' 

This gave ownership to Saint Finian. In response Colmcille persuaded his royal kinsmen to rise up against Diarmaid.
The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, during which many men (over 3000 ?) were killed.

 A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Colmcille suggested that he would work as a missionary in Scotland to help convert as many people as had been killed in the battle. He exiled himself from Ireland.

This illustration of Colmcille leaving Ireland is by Clare Melinsky, and appeared on a Royal Mail stamp issued in 1997, the 1400th anniversary of Colmcille’s death on Iona. Copyright Royal Mail.

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The poem was delivered by former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson who retraced the saint's journey from Donegal to Derry to the Isle of Iona. She ended her pilgrimage on the Isle of Skye on his feast day, 9th June, 1997.

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  • Click here for more on his life and click here for more information on the time he spent on the Scottish isle of Iona, which became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries and is the burial place of Colmcille and Scottish Kings.

When Colmcille and his monks first built it, the monastery on Iona was a simple building of timber, wattle and daub. Around 1200, it was rebuilt as a Benedictine abbey. Up to the sixteenth century, the monastery continued to grow. After the Reformation it became derelict. During the twentieth century, it was restored and it is now managed by Historic Scotland and is a major place of pilgrimage

Present day Abbey of Iona Scotland Image source

This weekend the city of Derry-Londonderry made the feast day of Saint Colmcille, aka St Columba, who is their patron saint, a centrepiece to their celebrations as City of Culture 2013 in a remarkable two day pageant of events titled The Return of Columcille.

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The photo above is a 9-11 ft bronze sculpture of St Columba releasing a dove and is located in St Columb's park . It was made by artist Niall Bruton and marks the start of the city’s Christian Heritage Trail. 
The trail is believed to be the original Pilgrims’ Trail route. The trail will be marked by the thoughts and reflections of 6th and 7thcentury Christian ancestors, portraying the different sides to St Columba. It will also include contemporary messages of reflection from city residents. 

Chair of the Churches Trust, Fr. Michael Canny said: ’St. Columba is recognised as the Patron Saint of the City and a unifying figure. It is fitting therefore that the leaders of the four main churches in the city come together to celebrate his contribution and legacy and dedicate this sculpture as a symbol of our shared Christian heritage’.

 Video of kid's work on Colmcille below

Colmcille was a big man. Wherever he went he left his mark - in ink, in ideas, in illumination but also in the earth.When he left Derry - in disgrace and despair - he landed first of all in Kintyre, Scotland. The "tall story" is that his heart was so heavy that his feet sank into the ground.

"Footsteps" of St Colmcille Kintyre Image source

  • More on the Columba trail in Scotland and those footsteps here !
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