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c.543-615. Irish saint and scholar. A disciple of Comgall of Bangor, he was a native of Leinster. He had a passion for learning, and had the distinction, unusual in his day, of being able to study the Scriptures in both Hebrew and Greek. When almost fifty he felt the call to evangelism on a wider scale, and after an abortive attempt to found a monastery in the south of England, he went to France where he established a noted school of learning at Luxorum in Burgundy. The discipline of his school was extremely severe, and while his movement was approved by the people, it was bitterly opposed by the clergy. He showed great courage in denouncing the vices of the Burgundian court, and of King Thierry in particular. Expelled from France, he worked for a time at Lake Constance in Switzerland before forming a notable monastery at Bobbio in N Italy, where he died.

Probably the sharpest and ablest controversialist of his time, Columbanus revived an interest in the findings of the General Council of Constantinople in 553, and pleaded with Pope Boniface IV not to condone Eutychianism or encourage those who believed there was only one nature in Christ. His correspondence with Boniface and later with Gregory the Great makes striking claims for the purity and independence of the Celtic Church, and challenges their claim to papal supremacy. He was a poet of singular gifts, and an able expositor of Scripture; his commentary is in the Ambrosian library in Milan.