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
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.
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
"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.