Columbanus Today - Places of His Ministry

Most of the heritage of Columbanus lies in continental Europe. Whilst he is remembered in spirit by such organisations as St Columban's Foreign Missionary Society and the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation, nothing physically remains in Ireland of the ascetic community he belonged to in Bangor.


As Ireland's first European, it is appropriate that his name and memory have taken such firm root in towns in France, and Italy. Even at his place of landing, the bay of St Malo in Brittany, there is a granite cross bearing his name, a cross to which people came to pray for rain in bygone times of drought. A village nearby commemorates him in name: St Coulomb.

Thanks to the efforts of the Association Internationale des Amis de St Columban, the remains of Columbanus' first monastic enclosure at Annegray, are legally protected, having been purchased by the organisation in 1959. Also in its ownership is the site containing the cave, which acted as Columbanus' cell, and the holy well, which he created nearby.

In Luxeuil-les-Bains, the place of his largest monastery in France, the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul stands on the site of Columbanus' first church. Here, he is immortalised in images and statues. A nineteenth century stained glass in the apse depicts scenes from Columbanus' life, while a statue near the entrance (unveiled in 1947) shows him denouncing the immoral life of King Theuderich.
This was formerly an abbey church, and contains old monastic buildings, which have been used as a minor seminary since the nineteenth century. It is dedicated to Columbanus and houses a bronze statue of him in its courtyard, as he marches forward into the unknown.


Situated on a wide part of the valley of the Trebbia, Bobbio holds the tomb of Columbanus in the Basilica of San Columbano. It is situated in a crypt beneath the basilica, a white marble sarcophagus, with scenes from his life carved on three sides. Beside it is a modern altar, and across from that, a stained glass window from 1910, depicting Columbanus, Patrick and Benedict. Beyond the basilica, the two grottoes to which Columbanus used to retire for silent prayer are still pointed out by locals on the mountainside.

The cult of Columbanus is confined to the north of Italy, where forty parishes are dedicated to him, as well as chapels and alters in other institutions. He left an indelible mark on the parts of the world his spirit touched.

  Bobbio, Italy


When celebrating its 2000th birthday in 1985, Bregenz, on the southeast corner of Lake Constance in Austria, St Columban's Church was chosen for the related religious ceremonies. For the feast day of St Columbanus that year, a large rock was brought from Bangor for the occasion, bearing the inscription, in German:

"A rock from the sea-coast at Bangor, Ireland. From there came the Irish preacher, St Columban, as a missionary to the ruined Roman settlement of Brigantium where he preached the Christian faith, with God's strength, to our forefathers, about 610 to 612, before he proceeded to Bobbio in Italy."

The twinning of Bregenz and Bangor further marked the millennium celebrations.