St Columba or Columkille (which means ‘church dove’), was born in 521 in Tyrconnel, Ireland into a noble family. Columba was a pupil at the monastic school of Clonard Abbey, becoming a monk and then being ordained a priest.
Sometime around 561 Columba was involved in a dispute with King Dermot and this even led to a battle in which kinsmen of Dermot and supporters of Columba were killed, much to Columba’s distress. Columba was allowed to go into exile and vowed to expiate the deaths of the men by winning as many souls for Christ as had been killed. Thus, in 563 he sailed with companions to the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland to convert the Picts to Christianity. He moved away from Kintyre, as he was still within sight of his beloved Ireland, to found a monastery on Iona. Iona became the centre of missionary endeavour in spreading Christianity among the people of Scotland. It also became the centre of a revitalised monasticism. Columba himself was a great scholar and writer, and credited with having written several hymns and transcribing over 300 books. There are many tales also celebrating the holiness of Columba, and the miracles he performed. Perhaps the most famous tells how he banished a fearsome water beast to the depths of Loch Ness, after it had killed a traveller and then tried to attack a Columba’s disciple.
St Columba died and was buried on Iona in 597.
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