(d. 617) 


COLUMBANUS (d.617), abbot and missionary. An Irishman and monk of the community of St Comgall in Bangor, c.590 Columbanus left Ireland on perpetual pilgrimage and sailed to Gaul. Here he set up monasteries with strict rules at Annegray and Luxeuil, in the Vosges. His religious fervour and his encouragement of private Penance did much to respiritualize barbarized areas of Gaul, where Christianity was at a low ebb. However, he aroused opposition from the episcopate by his uncompromising adherence to the traditions of the Irish Church. He vigorously defended these in letters to Popes and to a Gallic synod (603), but later he lost royal protection through his outspoken attacks on the king’s polygamy, and he was expelled from the country with his closest followers (610). They began missionary work among the heathen Alamanni near Lake Constance, but were driven out by political upheavals in 612, though St Gall stayed on. Finally Columbanus and his companions settled at Bobbio, which later became a great centre of learning. Feast day, 23 Nov.

Columbanus’ surviving works include letters, 13 sermons, and the Monks’ Rule; the Communal Rule and the Penitential ascribed to him are also substantially his work, but controversy continues about the poetry.

Crit. edn. of his Opera, by G. S. M. Walker (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae, 2; Dublin, 1957), with bibl. to date; cf. A. Mundó, OSB, in scriptorium, 12 (1958), pp. 289–93. ‘Penitential’ ed. J. Laporte, OSB (Monuments Christiana Selects, 4; Tournai, 1961). Life by Jonas of Susa and other material ed. B. Krusch in MGH, Scriptores Rerum Merovingicarum, 4 (1902), pp. 1–156, and 7, pt. 2 (1920), pp. 822–7; also pr. in Ionae Vitae Sanctorum Columbani, Vedastis, Iohannis (Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum, 1905), pp. 1–294. Eng. tr. by D. C. Munro (Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, no. 7; Philadelphia, 1895; repr., Felinfach, 1993). ‘Miracula Sancti Columbani’, ed. H. Bresslau in MGH, Scriptores, 30, pt. 2 (1934), pp. 993–1015. Full bibl. details of sources in M. Lapidge and R. Sharpe, A Bibliography of Celtic-Latin Literature 400–1200 (Dublin, 1985), pp. 165–8, 171 f., and 331 (nos. 639–42, 650–6, and 1251).

Mélanges Colombaniens: Actes du Congrès International de Luxeuil 20–23 juillet 1950 (Bibliothèque de la Société d’Histoire Ecclésiastique de la France [1951]); San Colombano e la sua opera in Italia (Convegna Storico Colombaniano, Bobbio, 1–2 settembre 1951; Bobbio, 1953). J. W. Smit, Studies on the Language and Style of Columba the Younger (Columbanus) (Amsterdam, 1971); M. Lapidge, ‘The Authorship of the Adonic Verses “ad Fidolium” attributed to Columbanus’, Studi Medievali, 3rd ser. 18 (1977), pp. 815–80; H. B. Clarke and M. Brennan (eds.), Columbanus and Merovingian Monasticism (BAR International Series, 113; Oxford, 1981); K. Schäferdiek, ‘Columbans Wirken im Frankenreich’, in H. Löwe (ed.), Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, 1 (Stuttgart, 1982), pp. 171–201; P. C. Jacobsen, ‘Carmina Columbani’, ibid., pp. 434–67; D. Schaller, ‘Die Siebensilberstrophen “de mundi transitu”—eine Dichtung Columbans?’, ibid., pp. 468–83. M. Lapidge, ‘Columbanus and the Antiphonary of Bangor’, Peritia, 4 (1985), pp. 104–16. Id. (ed.), Columbanus: Studies on the Latin Writings (Woodbridge, 1997). C. Stancliffe, ‘Jonas’s Life of Columbanus and his Disciples’, in J. Carey and others (eds.), Studies in Irish Hagiography (Dublin [2001]), pp. 189–220. J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church (Oxford History of the Christian Church, 1983), pp. 63–73.


cf. confer (Lat., compare).

MGH Monumenta Germaniae Historica.


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