Founding of Iona

By contrast, St. Brigid represents a union of both religions. In the seventh-century Vita Brigitae the historian Cogitosus records how Brigid had a druid as a foster father and he supported her despite her Christian missionary work. He was eventually humbled by her spiritual abilities, and duly converted to the new religion.

After St. Patrick, the best-known Celtic saint is St. Columba (Colmcille), who founded the great monastic settlement on Iona, and brought Christianity to the Scots and Rets. He was born to a noble family in 521 in County Donegal. In his teens he entered the monastery of Kinnian in County Down. In what was probably the world's first copyright battle, his disagreement with the abbot led to a ruling against Columba by High King Diarmuid. Columba led a revolt among his own O'Donnell clan, but was defeated.

Exiled, Columba sailed for Dal Riada with a band of followers in 563. He established a monastic center at Iona, courted the local Dal Riada leaders, and converted them to Christianity. His greatest accomplishment was his conversion of King Brude Mac Maelchon of the Picts, ensuring that both Celtic peoples of northern Britain embraced Christianity.

By 600, these missionary saints had converted the entire Celtic world, and although their exploits have become intertwined with myths, their remarkable achievements are self-evident. However, by the time the)' were read)' to expand their evangelical work into heathen Anglo-Saxon England, the Roman Church was already at work there.

Columba Van Iona
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