Also known as Columbanus or Columba the Younger, Irish monk, abbot of luxeuil and bobbio; b. Leinster, Ireland, c. 543; d. Bobbio, Italy, Nov. 23, 615. Columbanus studied at the school of St. Sinell (a disciple of St. Finnian of Clonard) at Cleenish in Lough Erne and entered the monastery and school of St. Comgall at bangor, where sanctity and scholarship were combined. In 591, after 30 years of teaching during which he composed a commentary on the Psalter and poems for his students, he was sent by St. Comgall with 12 companions to do missionary work on the continent of Europe. Invited by the Merovingian King Childebert, he settled in Burgundy and founded three monasteries, Annegray, Luxeuil, and Fontaines, whence there originated some 200 monastic foundations for which he composed a Regula monachorum and a Regula coenobialis. Vigorously attacking the degenerate local clergy, the immoral court, and undesirable local customs, he introduced the strict Irish system of Penance, contributing two penitentials himself. He had difficulty with the local bishops over the date for celebrating Easter (see easter controversy) and wrote to Pope gregory i for support, using the term totius Europae for the first time to express the Irish concept of the West as a Christian cultural unit. Expelled from burgundy by King Theuderic whom he censured for living in concubinage, Columbanus passed through Neustria at the request of King Clothar and settled near Zurich, whence he was driven out by the local population for his attack on paganism. He crossed the Alps and founded a monastery at Bobbio; from there his influence spread all over Europe, although his successors mitigated some of the rigors of Irish monasticism with Benedictine elements. His letters, rules, and poetry form part of the great tradition of Irish Latin literature and had a lasting effect on the culture of the Middle Ages. His body is buried in a crypt of the Church of St. Columbanus at Bobbio.
Feast: Nov. 23, Nov. 21 (Roman Martyrology).
Bibliography: S. Columbani Opera, ed. g. s. m. walker (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 2; Dublin 1957). g. metlake, Life and Writings of St. Columbanus (Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed 1993). t. Ó fiaich, Columbanus in his Own Words (Dublin 1974). jonas of bobbio, Vita sancti Columbani, ed. b. krusch (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores rerum Germanicarum 35; 1905), tr. as Life of St. Columban, ed. d. c. munro (Felinfach 1993). m. m. dubois, Saint Columban (Paris 1950). j. o'carroll, tr., "The Chronology of St. Columban," Irish Theological Quarterly 24(1957) 76–95. f. macmanus, Saint Columban (New York 1962). l. bieler and d. a. binchy, eds., The Irish Penitentials (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 5; Dublin 1963). Columbanus and Merovingian Monasticism, ed. h. b. clarke and m. brennan (Oxford 1981). Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings, ed. m. lapidge (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England 1997). j. f. kenney, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland (New York 1929) 1:186–205.