COLUMBA, SAINT (called also ST. CoLust•cm,r; and ST. Cousi), one of the greatest names in the early ecclesiastical history of the British isles, was born (it is believed, at Gartan, in the county of Donegal) in the n. of Ireland, on the 7th of Dec., 521. His father, Fedhlimidli, of the powerful tribe of the Cinch Conaill, was a kinsman of more than one chief or prince then reigning in Ireland and in the w. of Scotland; and his mother, Eithne, was also of royal descent. To this distinguished parentage, no doubt, he owed some measure of his great influence upon the minds of his countrymen.
He studied first at Moville, at the head of Strangford Lough, under St. Finman, by whom be was ordained a deacon; and afterwards under another St. Finnian. at Clonard, where he was ordained a priest. Among his fellow-disciples, lie is supposed to have had St. Comgall, St. Ciaran, and St. Cainneeh; and so conspicuous was his youthful devotion, even in that saintly company, that he received the name by which lie is per haps still best known in Ireland—" Colum-eille," or " Columba of the Church:" In 546, when no more than twenty-five, he founded Derry, and six or seven years after wards, Darrow, the greatest of all his Irish monasteries. He seems now to have embroiled himself in the civil strifes of his country; and the belief that be instigated the bloody battle of Cooldrevny, in 561, led to his excommunication by an Irish ecclesiastical synod. The justice of the sentence was challenged by ecclesiastics of rank, but it was probably among the causes which determined him to leave Ireland.
It was in 563, when in his 42d year, that, accompanied by twelve disciples, lie set sail for the little island of Hy or Iona, as it was then called—now better known as Iona (q.v.), or I Colum-cille—of which he obtained a grant, as well from the king of the Picts as from his kinsman the king of the Scots. Having planted a monastery here- built, it would seem, chiefly of wattles—lie set himself to the great work of his life, the conversion of the Pictish tribes beyond the Grampians. The Picts dwelling to the s. of that mountain barrier had been converted by St. Ninian of Whither!), in the 5th c.; and the Scots who peopled the western shores and islands of Scotland, were either Christians before they passed over from Ireland, or were afterwards con• verted by Irish missionaries. St. C. now brought the Picts of the n. to the true faith; hut, unfortunately, very little is known of the way- in which he accomplished his task. Bede speaks simply of his "preaching* and Adamnan, extolling his gift of miracles, tells how-the gate?. of the Pictish king's fort burst open at his approach, and bow, as he chanted the 45th Psalm, his voice was preternaturally strengthened, so as to be heard like a thunder-peal above the din and clamor by which the Pictish magicians tried to silence his evening prayer under the walls of the Pictish palace. We get an
other glimpse of his missionary footsteps from the Book of Deer, a Celtic MS. of the 11th or 12th c., lately discovered at Cambridge. It records how "Colum-cille and Drostan, the son of Cosreg, his disciple, came from Hy, as God had shown them, to Aberdour" (a beautiful little bay among the huge cliffs which fringe the coast of Buchan, as the n.e. district of Aberdeenshire is still called); how " Bede, a Pict, was then high-steward of Buchan, and gave them that town in freedom for evermore;" how " they came after that to another town, and it was pleasing to Colum-cille. for that it was full of God's grace; and he asked of the high-steward, Bede, that he would give it to him, but he gave it not; and, behold, a son of his took an illness, and lie was all but dead, and the high-steward went to entreat the clerics that they would make prayer for his son, that health might come to him; and he gave in offering to them from Cloch-in Tiprat to Cloch-Pette-mic-Garnait; and they made the prayer, and health Caine to him." In some such way as this, St. C. and his disciples seem to have traversed the Pictish mainland, the Western islands, and the Orkneys, establishing humble monas teries, whose inmates ministered to the religious wants of the people. The parent house of Iona exercised supremacy not only over all these monasteries, but over all the monasteries which St. C. had built in Ireland, and over those which were founded by his disciples in the northern provinces of England when they converted the Angles and the Saxons. Thirty-four years appear to have been spent by St. C. in raising up and perfect ing his ecclesiastical system in Scotland. But the labor did not so wholly engross him, but that he found (line for repeated voyages to Ireland, and for a visit to Glasgow, where St. Kentigern or was restoring Christianity among the Welsh or British tribes of Cumbria and Strathclyde. The health of St. C. seems to have begun to fail in 593. but his life was prolonged till he reached his 77th year, when lie breathed his last as he knelt before the altar of his church in Iona, a little after midnight, between the Stir and 9th of June, 597. He was buried within the precinct of his monastery, and his bones, which were afterwards enshrined—the stone pillow on which he slept, his books, his pastoral staff, and other things which he had loved or used, were long held in great veneration. No composition certainly known to be his has been preserved; but there have been attrib uted to him three Latin hymns of some merit, a short monastic (or rather heremitical) rule in Celtic, and several poems, among which is a collection of his prophecies.