Calendar of Scottish Saints – Saint Colman, Bishop, A.D. 676

Article

18 February. On the death of Saint Finan, another monk of Iona was chosen to succeed him in the see of Lindisfarne. This was Colman, who, like Finan, was of Irish nationality. At the time a fierce controversy was raging in Britain as to the correct calculation of Easter. The Roman system of computation had undergone various changes until it was finally fixed towards the end of the sixth century. It was adopted gradually throughout the Church, but Britain and Ireland still retained their ancient method. In consequence of this it sometimes happened that when the Celtic Church was keeping Easter, the followers of the Roman computation were still observing Lent. This was the case in the Court of Oswy, King of Bernicia, who followed the Celtic rite, while his Queen Eanfleada and her chaplains, who had been accustomed to the Roman style, kept the festival in accordance with it.

To bring about uniformity a synod was held at Whitby to give the advocates of either system an opportunity of stating their views. Saint Wilfrid, the great upholder of Roman customs, brought such weighty arguments for his side that the majority of those present were persuaded to accept the Roman computation. Saint Colman, however, since the Holy See had not definitely settled the matter, could not bring himself to give up the traditional computation which his dear master, Saint Columba, had held to. He, therefore, resigned his see, after ruling it for three years only, and with such of the Lindisfarne monks as held the same views retired to Iona.

On his way thither he seems to have founded the church of Fearn in Forfarshire, which he dedicated to Saint Aidan, placing there some of the saint’s relics brought with him from Lindisfarne. He also founded a church in honour of the same saint at Tarbert in Easter-Ross. This, however, was afterwards called by his own name.

After a short stay at Iona, Saint Colman re turned to Ireland and founded a monastery at Inisbofin, an island on the west coast of that country, peopling it with the monks who had left Lindisfarne in his company. Later on a new foundation was made at Mayo for Saxon monks only; it became known as “Mayo of the Saxons.” The saint ruled both monasteries till his death, which occurred at Inisbofin, where he was buried. He had translated thither the greater part of Saint Aidan’s relics. The ruins of the ancient church may still be seen on the island. Saint Colman’s feast has been restored to Scotland by Pope Leo XIII.

Protestant writers have tried to interpret Saint Colman’s conduct regarding the Synod of Whitby as a manifest opposition to Roman authority. This, however, is a mistaken conclusion. It must be remembered that the matter was regarded by him as an open question, and he considered himself justified in keeping to the traditional usage until Rome declared against it. Saint Bede, who had no sympathy with his views on the Easter question, speaks highly of Saint Colman as a holy and zealous Bishop.

There is some discrepancy between Scottish and Irish authorities as to the precise date of the saint’s death. In Scotland he was honoured on this day, but Irish writings give the date as August 8. There are also some slight differences in the particulars of his life; but as no less than 130 saints of this name are mentioned in Irish ecclesiastical records, it is conceivable that their histories have become intermixed.

MLA Citation

  • Father Michael Barrett, OSB. “Saint Colman, Bishop, A.D. 676”. The Calendar of Scottish Saints, 1919. CatholicSaints.Info. 29 January 2014. Web. 24 September 2017. <>