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Saint Columcille.

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(7 Dec 521 - 9 June 597)

St Colmcille was born in Gartan County Donegal on 7th December 521, he was a member of the O'Neill clan the great, great grandson on his fathers side of Nial of the Nine Hostages high king of Ulster. He is often referred to as Saint Columba of Iona, Colm Cille or Columcille (meaning "Dove of the church") a description said to born of sarcasm.

The custom of the time was that chiefs son's were fostered out, unusually Colmcille was fostered to a priest, as part of his education he studied at Movilla Abbey in County Down and Clonard in County Meath

Colmcille founded his first monastery at Derry in 546, after which he traveled widely throughout Ireland founding many churches, the most notable of which was Durrow Abbey in County Offaly, which was renowned for the quality of the scholars it produced and for the illuminated manuscript the Book of Durrow, now in the library of Trinity College Dublin, he is also credited with founding Kells Monastery in County Meath.

Some time around 560 Colmcille became embroiled in a dispute when he copied a psalter belonging to St Finian of Movilla. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, (The Battle of the Books) during which many men were killed. A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead.

In 563 Colmcille and twelve followers sailed to Iona in the Scottish western Isles, and began converting the Pictish tribes of the area to Christianity. Colmcille died in Iona on the 9th June 597.

In the early years of the ninth century Viking raids on Scotland and Ireland were increasing as a result of this and to protect Colmcill's bones from desicration they were moved to Downpatrick in County Down in 824, and were buried there along with those of St. Patrick and St. Brigid of Kildare.

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