Columbanus, a saint of the Roman Catholic church, born in Leinster, Ireland, in 543, died at Bobbio, Italy, Nov. 21, 615. Educated with great care from childhood, he fled from his native place to avoid the dangers to which his personal beauty exposed him, became a monk in the great monastic school of Bangor, and finally in 575 with 12 companions passed over into Brittany, and thence into Gaul. After sojourning for a time in various provinces, where his preaching, charity, and the pure life led by himself and his companions did much to revive religion, he was invited by King Gontran to fix his abode in Burgundy. He chose the ancient Roman castle of Annegray, near Fau-cogney, in the present department of Haute-Saone. It was in a forest, where after great hardships a monastery was built, the ground cleared and cultivated, and a large community sprung up. Soon their increasing number forced him to beg another residence from the royal favor, and he chose in 590 Luxeuil, the site of another Roman castle, at the foot of the Vosges, and on the confines of Austrasia and Burgundy, and another at Fontaines. Noblemen flocked to Columbanus in such numbers that he was able to establish the laus perennis, or perpetual praise, successive choirs of monks singing unceasingly night and day the praise of God. At length a double storm burst upon him: from the bishops, who desired him and his monks to abandon their manner of celebrating Easter; and from Queen Brunehaut and her grandson Thierry, whom Columbanus reproved openly, the king for his licentious life, and the queen for pandering to the king's vices in order to rule in his stead.
Banished from Burgundy with all his Irish monks, Columbanus embarked for Ireland, but was cast by a tempest on the shores of Brittany. Thence he proceeded to Laon, where the king of Neustria, Clotaire II., held his court; he reproved him and his mother Fredegonda for their disorders, but was favored and encouraged by both. Having made up his mind to pass over into Italy with his companions, he set out from Laon to Metz,- the capital of Theodebert, king of Austrasia. On his way through Champagne and Brie clergy, nobility, and people flocked around him, his journey to Metz becoming one unbroken series of preachings, conversions, and foundations. He resolved on his way to Italy to convert the Rhine provinces of Austrasia. Embarking below Mentz, he ascended the river, landing and preaching on his way, and finally established himself at Bre-genz, on the lake of Constance. The Ale-manni and Suevi, who held all eastern Helvetia, were worshippers of Wodin, violent and cruel in their disposition. A monastery was built, and for three years Columbanus labored to make the idolaters give up' their gods. At length his protector Theodebert fell into the hands of Brunehaut, who put him to death, and compelled Columbanus to fly.
His disciple Gall remained behind'to found the great mor nastic school which bears his name. Columbanus, crossing by the St. Gothard pass, arrived in Lombardy, where he immediately commenced preaching against the Arian heresy. King Agilulf bestowed upon him the territory of Bobbio on the banks of the Trebbia, where he set about erecting a church and monastery. Clotaire II., having vanquished Thierry and Brunehaut, sent a deputation to Bobbio pressing Columbanus to return to Gaul, but in vain. Wishing to withdraw from all human intercourse some time before his death, Columbanus hid himself in a cavern in the Apennines, returning to the monastery only on Sundays and holidays. The excessive bodily punishment imposed on offenders by his rule, with other imperfections, soon caused it to be superseded in all his monasteries by the rule of St. Benedict. - His Regula Ccenobitalis cum Pmnitentia-li is contained in the Codex Regularum, with the notes of the Benedictine Hugues Menard (Paris, 1638). The collection of his works was published by Sirin, with the notes of Fleming (fol., Louvain 1667); also a Latin poem in vol. ii. of Sirmond's OEuvres diverses.
A life of St. Columbanus and his disciples At-talus and Bertulfus was written in Latin hexameters in the 10th century by Flodoart, canon of Rheims. See also A. Gianelli, Vita di S. Colombano (Turin, 1844); and Montalembert's "Monks of the West".