New Catholic Dictionary – Saint Columbanus

detail of a 19th century stained glass window of Saint Columban, date unknown, artist unknown; Bobbio Abbey, Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(543-615) Confessor, Abbot of Luxeuil and Bobbio, born West Leinster, Ireland; died Bobbio, Italy. He studied at Cluaninis and Bangor, where he became a monk. About 583 he left Ireland with 12 companions, including Saint Gall, and after remaining a short time in Britain, arrived in France. At the invitation of King Gontram of Burgundy he erected a monastery at Annegray in the Vosges, which was so successful that he soon established others at Luxeuil and Fontaines. The superiors of these houses remained subordinate to Columbanus who wrote for them a rule embodying the customs of the Celtic monasteries. He also instituted an unending choir service of Divine praise. Having labored fruitfully for nearly 20 years, he was attacked by the Frankish bishops, jealous of his ever-increasing influence. They opposed his observance of the Celtic Eastertide, and his exclusion of men as well as women from his monastic precincts, and he was exiled from Frankish territory. Waging war against vice in the Burgundian royal household, and endeavoring to win King Thierry II from a life of sin and debauchery, he was exiled to Nantes, but arriving there, made his way to Soissons and in 611 reached the Austrasian court. He set out to evangelize the Suevi and Alemanni. His efforts being ineffectual, he proceeded to Italy, arriving at Milan, 612, where he at once began to confute the Arians. At the suggestion of King Agilulf he wrote a famous letter to Pope Boniface IV on the “Three Chapters” discussion, in which his zeal outran his knowledge and discretion. Agilulf gave him a tract of land at Bobbio, between Milan and Genoa, where his celebrated abbey was to be for centuries a stronghold of orthodoxy in northern Italy. Among his writings is his brief monastic rule, which was approved by the Council of Micon, 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine Rule. Invoked against insanity and inundations. Represented in art, bearded, wearing the monastic cowl, holding in his hand a book within an Irish satchel, surrounded by wolves. Relics in the monastery at Bobbio. Feast, 21 November; O.S.B., and in Ireland, 24 November.

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Columbanus”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 September 2012. Web. 19 March 2019. <>