St. John's Cross Were it not for the writing of Adamnan, the 9th Abbot of Iona, very little would have been known regarding St. Columba. His text, 'The Life of St. Columba' is one of the most complete pieces of biographical material from that time.
Columba was born on the 4th of December 521 at Gartan in the district of Donegal, Ireland.
After taking his monastic vows at Glasnevin, Dublin, he founded the monastery of Derry in 545. He also preached the length and breadth of Ireland, attacking paganism where it flourished and solidifying the faith in other areas.
More than 300 churches are ascribed to Columba, two of the most noteworthy being Durrow and Kells.
Why would Columba want to leave Ireland? One story, widely believed is that Columba had a major disagreement with Diarmid, king of Ireland over a small handmade book of psalms.
In 563, Columba and twelve followers left Ireland and sailed for Scotland, after visiting kinsmen at the Scottish Dalriada, Columba landed on Iona.
The first few years of Columbaís life on Iona were spent, preparing the land, training followers and getting the community in shape.
The Columban church, now established did not rest on itís laurels, Columba and two followers, St. Kenneth and St. Comgall travelled to the court of King Brude of the Picts at Inverness. In the conversion of Brude to Christianity, Columba at one stroke had created peace between the tribes and paved the way for the expansion of the church into Scotland.
Columba died in June 598 and was interred in a common grave, he was 77 years old.
In subsequent centuries, Iona was the burial ground of choice for many kings, princes, and ecclesiastics.
The church also fell prey to numerous and deadly attacks by marauding Danes, several times bearing witness to the slaughter of both monks and congregations.
Time passed, the church remained but power and influence had shifted elsewhere, particularly after the death of Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century and the Church of Rome donning the mantle of faith which had rested for so long in a little church on a tiny isle off the southwestern tip of Mull.
In 1603 Iona passed into the hands of the Duke of Argyll, and remains to this day.