History: Who Was St. Columban?

February 15, 2010

The statue of St. Columban in Bobbio, Italy, where St. Columban established his final monastery.

History by Region

St. Columban is the patron of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He is recognized as one of the great pioneers in western European civilization.

Columban was born in Leinster, Ireland, in 543. He left Ireland to proclaim Jesus Christ and His Gospel to Western Europe, where people had fallen into barbarism.

Amid hardship and persecution, Columban and his followers founded monasteries throughout France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. His mission was noted for his remarkable zeal, having once been described as “traveling through Europe like a flaming torch enkindling the fire of God’s love in the hearts of men.”

Columban’s great contribution to the Catholic Church was the new spirit in European monasticism he had instilled, a spirit of total commitment to Christ and to the values of the Gospels. His denunciations of the immoral practices of the royal court and the general populace led to his exile from France and Switzerland.

He founded his last monastery at Bobbio in Italy where he died on November 23, 615. In the words of Pope Pius XI, “Columban is to be reckoned among those exceptional people whom Divine Providence is wont to raise up in the most difficult periods of human history to restore causes almost lost.”