Colum Cille

  • fl. 6th century
  • feast-day: 9 June
  • saints of Ireland, abbots, saints of Scotland
  • Derry, Iona, Cenandas
founder and abbot of Iona, Kells (Cenandas) and Derry (Daire).
See also: AdomnánAdomnán
(fl. c.628–704)
Adomnán mac Rónáin was abbot of Iona (r. 679–704) and author of the Latin Life of St Columba and an account of the holy places of the Near East (De locis sanctis). He is credited with the proclamation of the Lex innocentium or Cáin Adomnáin at the Synod of Birr.
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Béccán of EmlaghBéccán of Emlagh
(supp. fl. 6th century)
Béccán mac Cúla
Béccán/Beccán mac Cúla/Cula, patron saint of Imlech Fiaich (Emlagh, Co. Meath) near Kells.
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Brénainn of BirrBrénainn of Birr
(d. 565/73)
Brendan mac Nemainn, patron saint of Birr
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Farannán of AlternanFarannán of Alternan
(supp. fl. 6th century)
Irish saint associated with Alt Fharannáin (now Alternan, Co. Sligo). In his Irish Life, he is represented as a contemporary of Colum Cille.
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Laisrén mac FeradaigLaisrén mac Feradaig
(d. 605)
Lasrén mac Feradaig, Laisrán mac Feradaig, Laisrén of Iona
Third abbot of Iona, in succession to Baíthéne; previously prior of Dairmag (Durrow, Co. Offaly) and one of Colum Cille’s companions in Scotland.
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Nemán mac GruthricheNemán mac Gruthriche
A sinner in the Vita sancti Columbae I.39, where he is foretold to die in bed with a meritrix; son of Gruthrech, at least according to the subheading in the text.
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See also references for related subjects.
Zhivlova, Nina, Жизнь Святого Колумба Нина Живлова, Studia historica, Языки славянских культур, 2019.  
Russian translation, with commentary and notes; along with a translation of the Annals of Ulster, s.a. 563–713.
Ritari, Katja, Pilgrimage to heaven: eschatology and monastic spirituality in early medieval Ireland, Studia Traditionis Theologiae 23, Turnhout: Brepols, 2016. XI + 223 pp.  
This book focuses on the expectation of the Judgment and the afterlife in early medieval Irish monastic spirituality. It has been claimed that in the Early Middle Ages, Christianity became for the first time a truly otherworldly religion and in monastic spirituality this otherworldly perspective gained an especially prominent role. In this book, Dr Ritari explores the role of this eschatological expectation in various sources, including hagiography produced by the monastic familia of St Columba, the sermons of St Columbanus, the Navigatio sancti Brendani portraying St Brendan’s sea voyages, and the vision attributed to St Adomnán about Heaven and Hell. One recurrent image used by the Irish authors to portray the Christian path to Heaven is the image of peregrinatio, a life-long pilgrimage. Viewing human life in this perspective inevitably influenced the human relationship with the world making the monastic into a pilgrim who is not supposed to get attached to anything encountered on the way but to keep constantly in mind the end of the journey.
(source: Brepols)
[2] “Heavenly citizens on earth: the Irish lives of Saints Adomnán and Columba”
2.a. Irish hagiography and holiness; 2.b. The prudent saint in Betha Adamnáin; 2.c. Monastery as holy ground in Betha Coluim Cille; 2.d. Saints as heavenly people.
Mc Carthy, Daniel P., “The chronology of Saint Columba’s life”, in: Moran, Pádraic, and Immo Warntjes (eds), Early medieval Ireland and Europe: chronology, contacts, scholarship. A Festschrift for Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Studia Traditionis Theologiae 14, Turnhout: Brepols, 2015. 3–32.  
Between Adomnán’s Vita Columbae and Bede’s account in his Historia ecclesiastica, Saint Columba’s life and missionary career are the best recorded of all early Irish ecclesiastics. Further, and in great contrast to his 5th-century British missionary predecessor, Saint Patrick, Columba’s chronology has not been the subject of controversy in modern times. At least from the 17th-century scholarship has been almost unanimous that Columba died in AD 597, a date that derives from Adomnan’s assertion that he died on Sunday, and that he left Ireland in AD 563, which likewise derives from Adomnán’s statement that his mission had lasted 34 years. However, Dáibhí Ó Cróinin’s identification in 1985 that Padua, Biblioteca Antoniana, I 27, 76r-77v preserves a copy of the paschal table followed by the early Irish church demonstrated that the feria of the kalends of January was the primary chronological criterion used by early insular Christian scholars to identify each successive year. It was this discovery that prompted examination of the ferial data preserved in the Clonmacnoise group of Irish annals, which in turn revealed that annals were compiled contemporaneously with Columba’s life, and hence that the annalistic account of Columba predates those of Adomnán and Bede by a century. These ferial data locate Columba’s obit unmistakeably at AD 593, and this four-year discrepancy raises serious doubt regarding the veracity and honesty of Adomnán’s account of Columba’s life.
Sharpe, Richard, “King William and the Brecc Bennach in 1211: reliquary or holy banner?”, The Innes Review 66:2 (2015): 163–190.  
In his Rhind Lectures of 1879 Joseph Anderson argued for identifying the Monymusk Reliquary, now in the National Museum of Scotland, with the Brecc Bennach, something whose custody was granted to Arbroath abbey by King William in 1211. In 2001 David H. Caldwell called this into question with good reason. Part of the argument relied on different interpretations of the word uexillum, ‘banner’, taken for a portable shrine by William Reeves and for a reliquary used as battle-standard by Anderson. It is argued here that none of this is relevant to the question. The Brecc Bennach is called a banner only as a guess at its long-forgotten nature in two late deeds. The word brecc, however, is used in the name of an extant reliquary, Brecc Máedóc, and Anderson was correct to think this provided a clue to the real nature of the Brecc Bennach. It was almost certainly a small portable reliquary, of unknown provenance but associated with St Columba. The king granted custody to the monks of Arbroath at a time when he was facing a rebellion in Ross, posing intriguing questions about his intentions towards this old Gaelic object of veneration.
(source: Publisher)
Carey, John, “Colum Cille on the pains of hell”, in: Carey, John, Emma Nic Cárthaigh, and Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh (eds), The end and beyond: medieval Irish eschatology, vol. 1, Celtic Studies Publications 17.1, Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2014. 461–464.
Lacey, Brian, Saint Columba: his life and legacy, Dublin: The Columba Press, 2013.  
Saint Colum Cille, also known from the Latin form of his name as Columba, was probably born in Donegal in ad 520 and died on Iona on 9 June – most likely in the year 593. His memory has been kept alive for almost a millennium and a half through folklore and literature, music and song, poetry and sculpture, manuscript-making and metalwork, history and archaeology.

Saint Columba His Life and Legacy is a comprehensive examination of the saint’s life in so far as we can know it, and a survey of the cult and traditions that developed subsequently; it also gives an outline of the enormous cultural legacy associated with the saint’s name. It covers material from Ireland, Scotland, the north of England, and the continent (including Scandinavia) and combines some archaeology, art history and folklore with the richer documentary material.

Dr Brian Lacey deals with an actual historical person, distinguishing him from the wonderfully complex but fictional character of the stories that have developed over the last fourteen centuries. He traces the evolution and effects of the monastic institution stemming from the saint’s main foundation on Iona – probably founded around 562 – as these spread throughout Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, with cultural and other influences reaching further to the continent. The extraordinary literary and artistic achievements of the Columban communities, of which the summa is the Book of Kells, are put in context, and the way in which Colum Cille’s memory has been invoked in the centuries since the middle ages is examined.
(source: Columba Press)
Enright, Michael J., Prophecy and kingship in Adomnán's 'Life of Saint Columba', Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013.  
This book offers a new interpretation of Adomnán’s 'Life of Saint Columba', a crucial source for the study of early Irish and north British history. Whereas previous scholars have assumed that this vita was that of a fairly typical Irish saint, Michael J. Enright shows that Adomnán intended to portray Columba as an authentic Old Testament-style prophet, one superior to any other leader because he had been divinely chosen and commissioned to impose God’s will on the British Isles. His purposes were not refutable by any other power since, like Moses, Samuel and Elijah, he had been made into God’s own singular herald. His commission was to reform kingship by selecting, anointing and guiding rulers according to Old Testament precedent. Like a scriptural prophet, moreover, he taught his followers to be prophets so as to ensure the continuity of his mission. In order to advance this regime of the prophet-guided ruler, God also endowed Columba with the special privilege of giving victory in battle to those who supported him. Adomnán intended to show that no other leader or institution could ever legitimately defy Columba, whose spirit actively lived on in his community.
(source: Four Courts Press)
Lacey, Brian, Lug’s forgotten Donegal kingdom: the archaeology, history and folklore of the Síl Lugdach of Cloghaneely, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012.  
Using archaeology, history, place-names, mythology and folklore, this book examines one of the smallest territorial units in Ireland from the beginning of history c.600, and traces its development to c.1100. It argues that these people from a remote area of Donegal constituted a tiny kingdom that had an ongoing association with the pagan god Lug – Lugh Lámhfhada. The book demonstrates how their original devotion to Lug was transmuted through conversion to Christianity, reconstituted in aspects of the cult of St Colum Cille and of a probably invented local saint – Beaglaoch. From c.725, their territory and influence were expanding – eventually giving rise to the powerful O’Donnell and O’Doherty families of the later Middle Ages. This illustrated book makes the Donegal landscape itself speak in a revealing manner, and offers a unique insight into wider early medieval history and religious culture.
Fraser, James E., “St Columba and the convention at Druimm Cete: peace and politics at seventh-century Iona”, Early Medieval Europe 15:3 (2007): 315–334.
Lacey, Brian, Cenél Conaill and the Donegal kingdoms, AD 500–800, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006.
Herbert, Máire, “Becoming an exile: Colum Cille in Middle-Irish poetry”, in: Nagy, Joseph Falaky, and Leslie Ellen Jones (eds), Heroic poets and poetic heroes in Celtic tradition: a Festschrift for Patrick K. Ford, CSANA Yearbook 3–4, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005. 131–140.
Celtic Digital Initiative: <link>
Baumgarten, Rolf, “Creative medieval etymology and Irish hagiography (Lasair, Columba, Senán)”, Ériu 54 (2004): 49–78.
Picard, Jean-Michel, “The cult of Columba in Lotharingia (9th–11th centuries): the manuscript evidence”, in: Carey, John, Máire Herbert, and Pádraig Ó Riain (eds.), Studies in Irish hagiography: saints and scholars, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001. 221–236.
Herbert, Máire, “The Vita Columbae and Irish hagiography: a study of Vita Cainnechi”, in: Carey, John, Máire Herbert, and Pádraig Ó Riain (eds.), Studies in Irish hagiography: saints and scholars, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001. 31–40.
Mc Carthy, Daniel P., “The chronology of S. Brigit of Kildare”, Peritia 14 (2000): 255–281.  

This is a critical chronological and textual analysis of all annalistic entries on the life of St Brigit of Kildare. It emerges that AT and CS have best preserved the chronology originally given Brigit in the Iona chronicle which placed her death at ad 524, aged 86 years. AU and AI transmit a later tradition, subsequently interpolated into the Iona chronicle, that she died aged 70. It is argued that the author of the original Iona chronicle entries was St Columba, a competent computist and near-contemporary of Brigit. Hence his chronology is trustworthy. To check this, a chronological evaluation of the earliest surviving Vitae S. Brigitae reveals that the chronology of all the individuals found jointly in the Vita I and the annals is consistent, implying that both sources have transmitted a chronology which is essentially correct, a result which supports the historical priority of Vita I over Vita II. Finally, examination of the context of Cogitosus’s date for Brigit’s death shows that he aligned it to correspond with existing non-christian celebrations already held in Kildare.

Macquarrie, Alan [ed. and tr.], “The Offices for St Columba (9 June) and St Adomnán (23 September) in the Aberdeen Breviary”, The Innes Review 51 (2000): 1–39.
Rust, Martha Dana, “The art of beekeeping meets the arts of grammar: a gloss of ‘Columcille’s circle’”, Philological Quarterly 78 (1999): 359–387.
Ó Riain, Pádraig, “Cainnech alias Columcille, patron of Ossory”, in: de Brún, Pádraig, Seán Ó Coileáin, and Pádraig Ó Riain (eds.), Folia Gadelica: essays presented by former students to R. A. Breatnach on the occasion of his retirement from the professorship of Irish language and literature at University College, Cork, Cork: Cork University Press, 1983. 20–35.
Grosjean, Paul, “Notes d’hagiographie celtique, no. 49: Dates de la fondation d’Iona et de la mort de saint Colum Cille”, Analecta Bollandiana 78 (1960): 381–389.
Grosjean, Paul, “Notes d’hagiographie celtique, no. 12: La mort de S. Columba, celle de S. Donnán et le cycle pascal celtique”, Analecta Bollandiana 63 (1945): 119–122.
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Colaim Cille .cc.”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 10 (1915): 49–50.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Aus Laud 615. Mughrón cecinit [etc.]”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 10 (1915): 340–341.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Aus Laud 615. Colum Cille cecinit”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 10 (1915): 347–348.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Colum Cille cecinit”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 9 (1913): 172–175.
CELT – edition: <link> Internet Archive: <link>
Pokorny, Julius, “Ein altirisches Gebet zu St. Columba”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 8 (1912): 285–288.
Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Colum Cille”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 8 (1912): 231.
Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften: Gedichte aus Laud 615”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 7 (1910): 300–304.
Internet Archive: <link>
Meyer, Kuno, “A medley of Irish texts: IX. Colum Cille cecinit”, Archiv für celtische Lexikographie 3 (1907): 311–312.  
Laud 615, p. 108 and 23 N 3, p. 175. 10qq.
Celtic Digital Initiative – edition: <link>
Strachan, John, “Anecdoton”, Ériu 1 (1904): 122.  
Edition of poem ascribed to Colum Cille, beginning ‘A Muire min maithingen tapair furtacht dún’ (RIA 23 N 10, p. 18).
Journal volume:  Internet Archive – vol. 1, part 1 (followed by vol. 2): <link> Internet Archive – vol. 1, part 1: <link> Internet Archive – vol. 1, part 2: <link>
Meyer, Kuno, “Anecdota from Irish MSS: 7. Colum Cille in Arann. Rawlinson B 512, fo. 141a, 1”, The Gaelic Journal 4:43 (December 1892, 1889–1893): 162.  
Edition and translation of a minor legend about Colum Cille and his visit to Arann, where the grave of Talgaeth, abbot of Jerusalem, is revealed to him.
Meyer, Kuno, “Anecdota from Irish MSS: 10. MS Rawlinson B 512, fo. 141b, 2; ib., 142a, 2 [and] Bibliothéque Royale, Brussels, MS 2324-40, fo. 6”, The Gaelic Journal 4:47 (November 1893, 1889–1893): 229.