St. Columban.


Columban was Ireland’s first European. The Irish missionary St. Columban (543-615) traveled throughout Europe, preaching and founded influential monasteries in France, Switzerland, and Italy.

As a young student, Columban was so impressed by the dedicated Irish monks who introduced him to religion and literature that he decided to join their ranks. He entered a monastery at Bangor, County Down, not far from his home, and placed himself under the spiritual guidance of its founder, Comgall. For some 30 years he lived quietly in prayer, work, and study. Desiring greater self-sacrifice, Columban asked his abbot if he could go into voluntary exile, leaving his native Ireland to start a monastery on the Continent.

He was already fifty years of age at this stage as he set out with a group of twelve monks and reached Brittany. He travelled on to the Vosges Mountains in the east and founded three monasteries. Later, though he was expecting to be sent back to Ireland, he was able to go on to Switzerland where one of his companions Gaul separated from him. With other companions, Columbanus moved on to found a monastery at Bobbio in North Italy.

His monasteries are scattered over Europe in: Annegray, Fontaine, and Luxeuil in the Vosges mountains [Haute Saone -between Dijon and Strasbourg], and Bobbio near Genoa.                                                                                                                                                       In time, Luxeuil and Bobbio grew to become major spiritual and cultural centres and produced some of the leading figures of continental Christianity. Guided by the Rules he wrote for monks, the monasteries became models for later foundations and, with their followers, perpetuated Columbanus’s monastic ideals long after his death in 615.

Bobbio was the last of Columban’s foundations and his final resting place. In the early hours of Sunday 23 November, 615, Columban breathed his last.

Columban was a great abbot, scholar, preacher, founder, educator, hermit, one of the greatest missionaries of the Celtic church, who initiated a revival of spirituality on the European continent.     

We Columban Missionaries call on him as our Patron to lead us all, as each one of us is a missionary by our Baptism. Let’s make the world a better place because of our presence, knowing that we pass through this world merely as pilgrims.  

‘Allow Christ to paint His image on you.’  St. Columban.


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