Biography of San Columba o Columbán (ca. 521-597)

Irish monk, main protagonist of the conversion to Christianity of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland. Born in Tyrconnell (Donegal, Ireland) towards the year 521 and died in the Scottish monastery of Iona Island (in the Hebrides) June 9, 597.

The main historical source for the knowledge of his life and his work of evangelization is the Vita Columbi of Adomnán of Iona, ninth Abbot of the Monastery founded by St. Columba, who wrote it around the second decade of the seventh century. Despite its relative chronological proximity to the events narrated, the eulogy and quite laudatory tone with which it is written, even though it allows to assert accurately highlights milestones in the life of the Saint, little objectivity freckle, especially in what refers to the political links of Columba with the monarchs of the Kingdom of Dalriada.

Even with this source, the references to the Holy Childhood are unknown until his entry into an ecclesiastical career. In the year 551, when he/she was thirty years of age, was ordained a clergyman under the admonition of two famous Irish preachers: San Fenian Moville and St. Feniano de Clonard, who, presumably, would have been their teachers. Shortly after his ordination, Columba began its work of monastic Foundation: contributed to the erection of the monasteries of Daire Calgaich, in Derry, and Dair-magh, in Durrow. To 562, Columba already had a wide reputation in the Irish community, as well as a large group of disciples. Towards the 563, and accompanied by some of his acolytes, Columba sailed to Scotland, specifically to the Hebrides in the North of the country, where they founded the monastery and the Church of Iona, true Center of evangelization of the settlers Pagans in Scotland, Picts and escotos, in addition to the indigenous Celtic cult.

The Evangelisation of St Columba, leaving aside its undeniable condition religious and spiritual, was very clever: knew how to adapt customs ancient Celtic and pagan cults new Christians, which earned him a large successful popular, and also, from the beginning of its work, tried to attract political support from the most powerful of the Scottish kingdoms of Dalriada, which was, to the dessert, the cause of evangelizing takeoff from Iona. Thus, St Columba crowned as King to Aidan MacGabrain, towards the 570, while this provided the support necessary to become the head of the Scottish Church, with capacity of its Abbots to appoint bishops and the establishment of dioceses to Iona.

See evangelization.

St Columba also supported Aidan MacGabrain on political issues, as it can be seen in the presence of the Holy in the Synod of Druim Cetta (Ireland), held at 575, in which Irish and Scots tried to agree on borders between their respective kingdoms, as well as an ecclesiastical organization that respected the powers of both churches. As Columba of Irish origin, it seems that the limits, politicians and churchmen, were resolved in perfect harmony, judging by the vehemence of evangelization in the British Isles and also by the absence of armed clashes between two emerging kingdoms in the 6th century.

After the 575, St Columba withdrew to Iona, where he/she remained until his death and where he/she was revered as a true living Saint. The constant reorganization of Evangelical missions was its main task: every year, after being suitably taught, hundreds of British monks came from Iona to different parts of the Islands, with the aim of increasing the number of conversions. The environmentally friendly method of St Columba did the rest. After his death, June 9, 597, Iona loyalty to monarchs Scots (of Dalriada the first, after the unified Scotland) remained at the time, as well as his figure in popular memory, which held all the June 9 their festivity.

In 1958, some archaeological excavations in Iona revealed the existence of the monastic cell of the Holy, located on the outskirts of the monastery, where they also found three Latin hymns which were immediately attributed to the Saint, although there are still severe discrepancies on this issue.


MITCHINSON, R. A History of Scotland. (London-New York: Methuen, 1980).

MORGAN, K. O. The Oxford History of England. (Oxford: University Press, 1988).

Links on the Internet; Official website of the Government of Scotland about various subjects in the history of the country.