Columba Cille

Columb Cille Cille (0521 - 0597)

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Columb Cille (Columba) Cille
Born in Irelandmap
Ancestors ancestors
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Died in Iona, Scotlandmap
Profile last modified | Created 6 Aug 2015
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Categories: Irish Saints and Clergy.


Colum Cille; Saint Columba was an Irish abbot and missionary who played a major role in the spread of Christianity in Scotland; he was held in high esteem by both the Gaels of Dál Riata in the west, and the Picts of north and eastern Scotland. His name, "Colum Cille" in English means "the Dove of the Church".

Colum Cille was born about 520, the son of Fedlimid and Eithne of the Northern Uí Néill, Ulster. [1] He was born in Gartan, northwest Donegal.

He studied under some of Ireland's most prominent church figures, Crunathan and later Finnian of Movilla

From the The Annuls of Ulster U553.3 ''I have found this in the Book of Cuanu: The relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille. Three splendid halidoms were found in the burial-place: his goblet, the Angel's Gospel, and the Bell of the Testament. This is how the angel distributed the halidoms: the goblet to Dún, the Bell of the Testament to Ard Macha, and the Angel's Gospel to Colum Cille himself. The reason it is called the Angel's Gospel is that Colum Cille received it from the hand of the angel."

He is the Patron Saint of Derry, founding his monastery there about 0546. [2] [3]

He founded several monasteries in Ireland; founding a monastery at Durrow, and serving there from 553 to 563. [4] [5] [6]

When a prince fatally injured a rival in a game of hurley, he sought sanctuary with Colum Cille, a sanctuary ignored when Diarmaid's men dragged the prince away from the saint and killed him, prompting Colum Cille to organise men loyal to the High King to go to war. History records that "3000 unprepared souls" were consigned to eternity, Colum Cille was censure and there was a threat of excommunication. Colum Cille would spend the remainder of his days working toward winning as many souls for Christ as those lost in that battle. [7] About 563 he and twelve companions crossed to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll, in Kintyre and begun their mission in Scotland. [8] Conall Mac Comgaill, a king of Dál Riata, is said to have given the island of Iona to Columb Cille. [9] The abbey on Iona became the burial place of kings, and a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. The monks of Iona built a new monastery at Kells in 807, later moving their headquarters to Derry in 1150.

He was active in politics, particularly at a time in which the the men of Alba were at war with the men of Ireland, when he attended the great convention of Druim Ceat where the Áed Mac Ainmuirech King of Ireland was camped for over a year with all the great men of Ireland, both chiefly and clerical, devising laws, dealing out justice and defending Ireland's interests in the Kingdom of Dál Riata [10] [11]

Colum Cille devised a law for the protection of non-combatants, the Lex Innocentium which was enforced by King Domnall of Mide and promoted by Sléibéne, Abbot of Iona in the mid- 8th century. [12] This law protecting those who did not bear arms adhered to in the wars of Donnchad mac Domnaill and Bresal; and became a generally adhered to policy until recent times, " a seventh-century precedent for the Geneva Convention." [13] [14]

He passed away about 595. [15] [16] [17]

Colm Cille is remembered as a writer, a poet and scribe. The Cathach of Colum Cille is the oldest surviving Irish manuscript, once thought to have been written by Colm Cille himself. The influence and teaching of Colum Cille continued to guide the clergy long after his death; in 0807, a new monastery of Colum Cille was built at Cenannas, (Kells, in county Meath) For several hundred years, these flourishing monasteries initiated by Colm Cille continued to foster the great flow of creativity and craftsmanship responsible for magnificent works of art such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. [18] And the Clergy in turn continued in attempting to exert their moral authority over the rulers of Ireland and Scotland. [19]

Colum Cille's status as a saint is as one of the Blessed, canonised locally as a result of popular devotion, rather than by declaration of the Roman Catholic Church. [20]


  1. The Annuls of Ulster U519.1 state : 0519 "The birth of Colum Cille on the same day as Buite son of Bronach fell asleep." which is followed by a later entry "U523.2 Buite son of Brónach died" U523.3 "Colum Cille was born")
  2. The Annuls of Ulster U546.1 "Daire Coluim Cille was founded"
  3. Saint Columb's Cathedral; Saint Columba's Church Long Tower; and [ St Augustine's Chapel of Ease are located on or close to the site of Derry's first Monastery.
  4. Ask About Ireland : Durrow
  5. "Aed son of Brénainn—i.e. it is he who granted Dermag to Colum Cille—king of Tethba, died" The Annuls of Ulster U589.2
  6. [ Wikipedia : The Book of Durrow"
  7. "The battle of Cúil Dreimne (Sligo) in which 3000 fell, won over Diarmait son of Cerball. Forgus and Domnall, two sons of Mac Erca, i. e. two sons of Muirchertach son of Muiredach son of Eógan son of Niall, and Ainmire son of Sétna, and Nainnid son of Daui, were victors, with Aed son of Eochu Tirmcharna, king of Connacht. They prevailed through the prayers of Colum Cille." The Annuls of Ulster U561.1
  8. in the year 563 "The voyage of Colum Cille to the island of Í in the 42nd year of his age." Celt : The Annuls of Ulster U563.4 corpus of electronic texts edition
  9. "Death in the sixteenth year of his reign of Conall son of Comgall who granted the island of Ia to Colum Cille." Celt : The Annuls of Ulster U574.2 corpus of electronic texts edition
  10. "The great convention of Druim Ceat at which were present Colum Cille and Aed son of Ainmire." The Annuls of Ulster U575.1
  11. see The Convention of Druim Ceat (AU. 575) by John Ryan in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland vol: 76 no: 1 (Apr., 1946) pp. 35-55 (pdf available in Jstore) note: although the Annals record this convention in AD 575, it may not have taken place until AD 590.
  12. "The law of Colum Cille enforced by Domnall of Mide." The Annuls of Ulster U753.4; "The law of Colum Cille promulgated by Sléibéne" The Annuls of Ulster U757.9
  13. "The law of Colum Cille promulgated by Donnchad and Bresal." The Annuls of Ulster U778.4
  14. Slí Cholmcille : Iona after Colum Cille
  15. "Repose of Colum Cille on the fifth of the Ides of June in the 76th year of his age." The Annuls of Ulster U595.1
  16. "Or this year, the repose of Colum Cille on Sunday night." The Annuls of Ulster U601.4
  17. Wikipedia, ( accessed 5 August 2015), "Columba,"
  18. "Building of the new monastery of Colum Cille at Cenannas." The Annuls of Ulster U807.4
  19. "Colum Cille's community went to Temair (Tara) to excommunicate Aed." The Annuls of Ulster U817.8
  20. Catholic : Saint Columba of Iona

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