For my third consecutive post about favorite saints I’m writing about a saint I associate with a place I visited on my travels in Ireland and Britain in 1998 (see Bede and Kevin). This time the saint is Columba (also known as Colmcille and numerous other variations) and the place is Derry (also known as Londonderry) in Northern Ireland. Saint Columba (521-597) is attributed with founding Derry by placing a monastery there in the 6th century. Doire as it is spelled in Irish means “oak grove” and Columba wrote fondly “Derry mine! my small oak grove/Little cell, my home, my love!” Colm Cille means “dove of the Church” and this imagery of doves and oak groves gives a sense of a pastoral history to a city ravaged by sectarian violence the past four centuries.
Columba was born in County Donegal in Ireland of royal descent and was ordained as a priest by the age of 25. Possibly as the result of a conflict with Saint Finnian over a psalter (which led to a family feud and many deaths), Columba exiled himself to Scotland as a missionary. In 563, Columba and his followers established a missionary center at Iona to help bring Christianity to the Picts. The Iona Abbey helped revitalize monasticism in Europe and became a place of pilgrimage. Columba himself was a man of prayer, study and letters writing hymns and transcribing 300 books.
Much of what is known about Columba comes from Vita Columbae, a detailed life of the saint by Adamnan of Iona. The work contains many legendary details such as the first written appearances of King Arthur and the Loch Ness Monster. Columba’s legacy is long lasting and today he is one of three patron saints of Ireland along with Bridgid and Patrick.
Learn more about Saint Columba at: