Saint Colum Cille, also known from the Latin form of his name as Columba, was probably born in Donegal in ad 520 and died on Iona on 9 June – most likely in the year 593. His memory has been kept alive for almost a millennium and a half through folklore and literature, music and song, poetry and sculpture, manuscript-making and metalwork, history and archaeology.
Saint Columba His Life and Legacy is a comprehensive examination of the saint’s life in so far as we can know it, and a survey of the cult and traditions that developed subsequently; it also gives an outline of the enormous cultural legacy associated with the saint’s name. It covers material from Ireland, Scotland, the north of England, and the continent (including Scandinavia) and combines some archaeology, art history and folklore with the richer documentary material.
Dr Brian Lacey deals with an actual historical person, distinguishing him from the wonderfully complex but fictional character of the stories that have developed over the last fourteen centuries. He traces the evolution and effects of the monastic institution stemming from the saint’s main foundation on Iona – probably founded around 562 – as these spread throughout Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, with cultural and other influences reaching further to the continent. The extraordinary literary and artistic achievements of the Columban communities, of which the summa is the Book of Kells, are put in context, and the way in which Colum Cille’s memory has been invoked in the centuries since the middle ages is examined.
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