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Saint Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597 AD) – also known as Colum Cille (Old Irish, meaning "dove of the church"), Colm Cille (Irish), Calum Cille (Scottish Gaelic) and Kolban or Kolbjørn (Old Norse, meaning "black bear")[1][2] – was a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts during the Early Medieval Period. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.[3]


Early life in Ireland

Columba was born to Fedlimid and Eithne of the Cenel Conaill in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, in modern County Donegal, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. On his father's side he was great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish high king of the 5th century. He was baptised in Temple-Douglas, in the County Donegal parish of Conwal (mid-way between Gartan and Letterkenny), by his teacher and foster-uncle Saint Crunathan.[4][5][6]

In early Christian Ireland the druidic tradition collapsed due to the spread of the new Christian faith. The study of Latin learning and Christian theology in monasteries flourished. Columba became a pupil at the monastic school at Clonard Abbey, situated on the River Boyne in modern County Meath. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at the Clonard monastery. It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction at Clonard was 3,000.[3] Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Columba was one of these. He became a monk and was ordained as a priest. During this time he is said to have founded a number of monasteries, including ones at Kells, Derry, and Swords.[7]

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