Posted by: anna | December 4, 2009

Columbanus of Bobbio

icon image from here
Today is the preview of the good will of God,
Of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the temple of God,
In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
0 Divine Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

Today is one of the Great Feasts of the Church, the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple. There are very few other saints on the calendar for this day, but one of them is the Venerable Columbanus of Bobbio, abbot and founder of Luxeuil Abbey (Gaul) (615). I am falling back on David Farmer for this summary, which even with his usual brevity is far from short:

‘Columbanus (Columban) c.543–615, abbot. He was born in Leinster, probably of a noble family, and was well educated before becoming a monk. This he did, according to his biographer, through following the advice of a woman hermit after severe carnal temptation, and completely against his mother’s wishes. His first teacher was Sinell, a disciple of Finnian; later he became the disciple of Comgall of Bangor with whom he stayed for many years until c.590, when with twelve companions he left for Gaul, choosing ‘voluntary exile for Christ’.

‘He founded the monastery of Annegray in a disused Roman fort, given him by King Childebert II of Austrasia, whose court Columbanus had visited on his way. Soon he attracted numerous followers and founded the monastery of Luxeuil, also in the Vosges. There his monks lived according to Irish tradition, keeping the Irish date of Easter, having a bishop who was subordinate to the abbot, promulgating Irish penitential practice. In all these ways Columbanus’ monasteries differed from the rest of the Frankish church and friction was almost inevitable. After the death of Childebert the attack on Columbanus was centred on the date of Easter. But he wrote directly to Gregory the Great (and later to Boniface IV), affirming his loyalty to the successor of St. Peter, but at the same time asserting that the Irish had maintained ancient Christian tradition, pure and unsullied, in contrast to other nations. A few years later, when attacked by the archbishop of Lyons, he wrote to the Synod of Chalon, asking simply for toleration for his own communities to live according to the monastic traditions of Ireland.

‘A turning point in the opposition to Columbanus came when he refused to bless the illegitimate sons of Theuderic II and thus incurred the hatred both of the king and of the queen-grandmother Brunhild. Columbanus and his monks were then taken under military escort to Nantes to be deported back to Ireland. But scarcely had his ship left port when it was forced back by a storm. Columbanus then went to the court of King Clotar II of Neustria and later to Metz in Austrasia, where, at King Theudebert’s court, he met again some of his monks from Luxeuil. They then rowed up the Rhine, hoping to settle at Bregenz on Lake Constance. Here also they met with fierce opposition, while the victory of Theuderic over Theudebert made their situation untenable. They moved into the Lombard duchy, settling at Bobbio in the Apennines, in territory ruled over by the Arian Duke Agilof, whose wife and sons were Catholics, but divided from the Holy See over the vexed question of the Three Chapters condemnation. Columbanus wrote to the pope in a way which combined deep respect, plain speaking, and insufficient understanding of the issues involved. He settled at Bobbio c.613, founding a new monastery where there was only a ruined church and taking part himself in the actual work of building. He died in 615 on 23 November .

‘His principal writings are letters, a Rule, a Penitential, and several poems, among which a boating-song is perhaps the most famous. His style varies in accordance with the needs of each subject and is of high quality. Bobbio, famous for its large library and the richness of its insular manuscripts, and Luxeuil both had long and important histories. Columbanus’ Rule, although influential, was too severe for many, especially in its harsh insistence on corporal punishment, and was largely superseded by the Rule of St. Benedict. But for his example, inspiration, and pioneering achievements he is generally reckoned to be the greatest of Ireland’s many apostles to the Continent of Europe. Feast: 21 (in Ireland 23) November.’

“Columbanus” The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Oxford. 4 December 2009


I did find a troparion, on, which is labelled I hope it is right! Whoere do these texts come from? who writes them?

Troparion of St Columbanus. Tone 8.
Rome was shocked by the severity of your Rule, O Father Columbanus, but never daunted, you did not waver in your condemnation of spiritual and moral laxity. / Standing firmly in the tradition of the fathers of the Thebaid, / you are a tower of strength to us sinners, / wherefore O Saint, entreat Christ our God that He will grant mercy to our souls.

Holy St Columbanus, pray to God for us.


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