COLUMBA, SAINT (Irish, Co/um) (521-597), Irish saint (also Columkille "of the church"), was born on Dec. 7, 521, at Gartan in Co. Donegal. His father, Feidlimid, was a member of the reigning family in Ireland and was closely allied to that of Dalriada (Argyll) . His mother Eithne was descended from the king of Leinster. To these connections as much as to his piety and ability he owed his immense influence. Columba studied under the distinguished Finian of Moville (at the head of Strangford lough) and Finian of Clonard, and c. 551 was ordained priest. During his residence in Ireland he founded a number of churches and the famous monasteries Daire Calgaich (Derry), on the banks of Lough Foyle, and Dair-magh (Durrow) in King's county. In 563 Columba with 12 disciples established himself on the island of Hy or Iona, where he erected a church and a monastery, and in 565 applied himself to the task of converting the Picts. By his preaching, his holy life and miracles he converted the whole of northern Scotland and established many monasteries there, the monastery of Iona being regarded as the mother house and its abbots as the chief ecclesiastical rulers even of the bishops. Columba, in his character of chief ecclesiastical ruler, gave formal benediction acid inauguration to Aidan, the successor of Conall, as king of the Scots. He accompanied that prince to Ireland in 575, and took a leading part in a council held at Drumceat in Ulster, which determined the position of the ruler of Dalriada with regard to the king of Ireland. The last years of Columba's life appear to have been spent mainly at Iona, where he was already revered as a saint. He died on June 8, 597.
Several Irish poems are ascribed to Columba, but they are manifestly of a later age. Three Latin hymns may be attributed to the saint with some degree of certainty.
The life of St. Columba by Cuminius, who became abbot of Iona in 657, was enlarged by Adamnan, who became abbot in 679. These narratives were supplemented by the notices given by Bede. See W. Reeves, Life of St. Columba, written by Adamnan (1857) ; W. F. Skene, Celtic Scotland, vol. ii. "Church and Culture" (1877).