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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Saint Columba of Iona - Hibernian Mission - Dark Ages


Saint Columba
Saint Columba was born in today’s county Donegal, Ireland during the year of AD 521. He is a very important figure because he founded the monastery on the western Scottish island of Iona. In time, the missions from this small sanctuary would have far leading consequences for Christianity throughout the British Isles and into mainland Europe’s Frankish Empire. Among the Picts of Caledonia (Scotland) and later the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; (Today’s North and South Eastern England) the Hibernian missionaries spread Christianity across the Isles. Iona would become a mini Rome for Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain. Many of the Western areas of today’s England were Celtic Kingdoms too, along with Wales.

Hibernian is another name for Irish and Scots. The Scots/Irish colonised and integrated with Caledonia's Picts. Often the Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia and the Anglo-Saxons (English) called Irish and Scots Hibernian Missionaries.

Saint Columba was of a high distinguished bloodline from Cenel Conaill in Gartan. Here and throughout Ireland, the spread of Christianity had brought about the collapse of druidism. Monasteries were built and the teaching of Christianity and Latin flourished. Young Columba entered into the monastic teaching at Clonard Abby and was tutored by one of Ireland’s founders of Irish monasticism. There were over three thousand students under instruction at Clonard Abby and from Saint Finian’s teaching came twelve Apostles of Ireland – Columba was one of them. He left Clonard as a monk and was then ordained as a priest. He went on to found other monasteries of fame in Ireland. 
  
However, before this, Columba had copied a psalter from a scriptorium at the Movilla Abby. This must have been a feat that required a lot of concentration as the books were also elaborately decorated and the binding was a skilled undertaking also. St Finian got into a quarrel with Columba because he wanted the copied Psalter to be kept in another Abby, reasoning that it was the property of the monastic order, while Columba wanted this book to keep with him, where ever he went – an accessory for psalms and other things he might need – something to hand at all times. After all, he had put in a lot of work to acquire this. Perhaps Saint Finian regarded this as self-indulgent and priests could not be permitted such luxuries.

In AD 549 Saint Finian died, but the argument concerning the psalter must have been championed by other followers of Saint Finian because it all came to a dreadful confrontation about eleven to twelve years later (Around AD 560.) Some historians quote an argument about it in AD 560 and Saint Finian being involved.  However, if Saint Finian died in AD 549; it was either another Saint Finian or people of his cause?

This argument of the copied psalter from Movilla Abby’s scriptorium eventually caused a pitched battle of Cul Dreimhne in which many men were killed. Columba was called to account for this and faced being stripped of his robe (Priest status). Instead, he was banished to Caledonia (Scotland). He landed on the west coast with his followers and began to travel north, teaching Christian doctrines. He was given authority over an area of land on the island of Iona on the west coast. From here, he was charged with creating a new monastery and evangelising the Picts. With his group of devoted followers, he managed to Christianise the Pictish kingdoms and then sent more Hibernian missions, from Iona, far and wide. He gained the respect of many Pict realms and became very influential in the overall governing of Caledonia (Scotland)

He died in AD 597 at the age of seventy-five.  He left a lasting legacy of spreading Christianity across much of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. He was a man of many letters, hymns and some three hundred books. His devotion to Christian doctrines was colossal at a time when civilisation was adjusting in the Dark Ages and looking for a collective way forward.


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