[MR] Birth of Saint Columba
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri Dec 7 03:35:54 PST 2018
Noble Friends, Especially the Irish and Fellow Scots:
This date in 521 marks the traditional birth of Saint Columba, the Irish
monk who is credited (perhaps somewhat generously) with evangelizing the
Picts of Scotland beginning in 563. While Columba's life ended in 597, just
before our period of interest, his influence, his followers, and the
monastery he founded on Iona are all vital to the medieval history of
Besides, he was a pretty cool saint: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columba
and http://catholicsaints.info/saint-columba-of-iona/ .
Although Columba usually gets the credit for bringing Christianity to the
Picts, his disciples actually did much of the legwork, and there were other
missionaries active in Scotland such as Saint Kentigern (aka Saint Mungo)
and the somewhat shadowy Saint Ninian. Often discounted, there were also
hold-out Christians in Lowland Scotland left over from Roman times.
Columba settled on Iona with his 12 key disciples and established a
monastery, one of the few centers of learning and literacy in western
Scotland at that time. Columba's monastery was probably built of wood,
later replaced by stone, and finally trashed by the Vikings several times.
The current abbey dates to the early 13th century when the Lord of the
Isles invited the Benedictine order to re-establish the foundation. Largely
in ruins after the reformation, the abbey was lovingly restored during the
20th century, much of it by volunteer laborers:
The remains of Columba's personal hut and study are thought to have been
found on a small mound known as Torr an Aba near the abbey.
The Monymusk Reliquary, one of the great medieval treasure of Scotland, has
long been thought to have held the relics of Saint Columba. Maybe. The
reliquary is proudly displayed at the National Museums of Scotland in
Edinburgh: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monymusk_Reliquary .
Today Iona Abbey is owned by Historic Environment Scotland (the Scottish
government trust for historic sites), but remains an active church and
ecumenical Christian center. Although somewhat difficult to reach (a long
slog across the Island of Mull, bookened by Cal-Mac ferry rides, the second
subject to weather cancellations), Iona and its abbey are a must-see for
any Scadians visiting Scotland. Take your golf clubs--naturally, the island
has an 18-hole course, shared with free-range sheep and their droppings,
and is said by some to be the most difficult in Scotland.
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
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