A Celtic cross - Duncan Stephen - cc

St. Colomba of Iona

A Celtic cross - Duncan Stephen - cc

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St. Colomba of Iona (521-597) was an Irishman who participated in the evangelization of Ireland, Scotland and the North of England. Considered one of the patron saints of the Irish, Saint Colomba fought throughout his life for the complete conversion of peoples who had not yet been evangelized by Christianity in Ireland, Scotland and England.

Biography of St. Colomba of Iona

An Irishman who participates in the Christianization of Ireland

Saint Colomba was born on December 7, 521, into a rich Irish clan: the O’Neill of Tyrconnel, a royal family reigning at that time over Donegal. His father, Feidlimid mac Fergus Cendfota mac Conall Gulban is the very founder of the clan, and son of the supreme king (Ard ri Érenn) Niall Noigiallach (399-432).

During his youth, Saint Colomba discovered Christianity and entered the Abbey of Clonard, and worked under the influence of his mentor, Saint Finian de Clonard. Saint Colomba soon established several monasteries and schools throughout Ireland, including :

  • a monastery in Derry in 545,
  • a monastery in Durrow in 553,
  • a monastery in Kells in 554

Also very involved in the political field, Saint Colomba is sometimes at the centre of conflicts and rivalries within his family. His commitment is such that he becomes disturbing and is forced into exile in Scotland. According to legend, he left with 12 companions (in analogy to Christ and his apostles) for the island of Iona in 563, and from then on he enjoyed the protection of the King of Scotland Conall mac Comgaill of Dalriada.

He then made the island of Iona his headquarters to participate in the Christianization of Scotland and northern England. He converted the Picts, spread Christianity throughout Scotland and became a religious icon.

Saint Colomba died on June 9, 597, and was repatriated to Downpatrick, Ireland, where he was buried in the village cemetery along with two other saints: Saint Patrick (385-461) and Saint Brigitte (451-525).

Nowadays, the Irish commemorate Saint Colomba on 9 June each year through religious ceremonies.


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