Saint Columban

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Saint Columban (kəlŭm´bən), c.540–615, Irish missionary to the continent of Europe, also called Columbanus. He was trained in the abbey at Bangor. He and 12 companions, including St. Gall, sailed to France (c.585), where they set out to eradicate the general impiety that had grown up under the successors of Clovis. He went into seclusion in the Vosges, and c.590 he founded the abbey at Luxeuil. His Celtic practices and austerities eventually alienated both ecclesiastical and civil powers. Involved in the hostility between Queen Brunhilda and the Frankish bishops, he was generally feared by them all and was exiled. He went (610) to Switzerland and to Bregenz, seeking to reestablish Christianity there. Hostile reaction caused him to go (612) to Milan. At Bobbio he set up an abbey. There he died and lies buried. St. Columban was a considerable scholar, and all his foundations became known for their learning. He composed a rule for monks, which was later completely replaced by the longer and less austere rule of St. Benedict. Feast: Nov. 21 and, in Ireland, Nov. 23.

See B. Lehane, The Quest of Three Abbots (1968); C. H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism (1984).

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Columbanus, St (c.543–615). Born in Leinster (Ireland), Columbanus entered religious life as a young man. Fired with missionary zeal, he left the monastery at Bangor c.590 with twelve companions. His request to settle in the wastelands of Burgundy granted, he established monastic centres at Annegray, Luxeuil, and Fontaines. He greatly influenced the spread of monasticism in Gaul, attracting many followers. But adhering to Celtic traditions such as the dating of Easter, he provoked Frankish bishops whose authority he would not recognize, and whilst accepting the primacy of the papal see, he refused to conform with Roman practices. Driven out of Burgundy in 610 by Queen Brunhilde for criticizing her grandson's immorality, Columbanus worked briefly near Bregenz before settling in Lombardy, founding his great monastic centre at Bobbio, where he died. His rule reveals an extremely severe discipline and detailed penal code.

Audrey MacDonald