Columban of Luxeuil

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St. Columban. Window of the crypt of Bobbio Abbey

Columban von Luxeuil , also written Columban (* 540 in Nobber near Navan (West Leinster ), Ireland ; † November 23, 615 in Bobbio ( Piacenza province ), Italy ) was an Irish wandering monk and missionary . He is venerated as a saint by Catholics and Orthodox Christians . In the Evangelical Church in Germany , too , he is considered a memorable witness of faith.

In contrast to Saint Columban , who evangelized Scotland, he is referred to as Columban of Luxeuil , Columban of Bobbio (Italian: Colombano ) or Columban the Younger.

His liturgical feast day is November 23rd.



After breaking away from the world, he began a monastic education with Abbot Sinell at Cluaninis near Lough Erne . Later he moved to Bangor Abbey , which was then headed by St. Comgall .

Travels of St. Columban

Around the year 591 Columban set off with a number of brothers, traditionally based on the number of disciples of Jesus of twelve, from Bangor monastery to the coast. Saint Gallus , Domoal, Comininus, Eunocus and Equonanus are mentioned among his companions . The companions embarked and first reached the coast of Britain (the text leaves open whether it is the coast of Brittany or that of today's Great Britain). Here, Jonah reports, they rested and discussed their plans before going to Gaul.

In the Franconian Empire

Childebert II. (Jonas calls Sigebert here) invited Columban to Austrasia shortly after his arrival in Gaul . Here Columban and his companions first founded the Annegray Monastery . Franconian nobles and officials in particular sent their sons to the monastery as wafers in order to have them trained there. The Irish monks soon founded the monasteries Luxeuil and Fontaines . In this context, the Regula Monachorum of St. Columban.


The success of the Irish monks under Columban had to arouse the envy of the bishops, because he evaded their jurisdiction, since he was under the protection of Childebert II and later by his successor Theuderic II . Because he continued to follow the Irish festival calendar, he celebrated Easter on a different date than the rest of the Roman Church. The Frankish bishops tried to take advantage of this to file a lawsuit. But Columban came before him when he wrote a letter to Pope Gregory around the year 600 . In the second surviving letter, which was presumably addressed to the Synod of the Frankish bishops of Chalon in 603, he asks to be allowed to remain in peace in his new home. Columban was still under Theuderich's protection, but when he was asked by Theuderich to bless his four illegitimate children, Columban refused and later threatened excommunication. Now Theuderich sent him to Besançon under guard . According to Jonas's report, there were some incidents here which caused the guards to let Columban go. So he returned to Luxeuil. But in 610 he was placed under guard again and taken to Nantes with some of his Irish companions . Now that Theudebert II had invaded Alsace, Theuderich wanted to get rid of this insecure element. According to contemporary reports, Columban was on his way to Ireland when a storm forced him to return to the continent.

Switzerland and Lake Constance

The Rhine was not passable for boats due to the Kleine Laufen near Laufenburg , as well as near Ettikon , you could only continue here on foot or on horseback. Back then , the easiest way to get to Lake Zurich was across the Aare , which you sailed from the Hochrhein at the heights of Waldshut or Koblenz by boat, mostly Weidlingen , then you came to Lake Zurich on the Limmat .

Columban and his companions first came to Tuggen on the upper Lake of Zurich , where they began missionary work. Some of the residents accepted the new faith, but others remained skeptical. To prove that their old gods were void, Gallus took a statue and threw it into the lake. The judgment of their gods expected by the heathen did not take place, and some more allowed themselves to be convinced of the new faith and baptized. Nevertheless, the messengers of faith had to move on because the remaining pagans sought their lives.

Columban ended up on Lake Constance , where he found Christians in Bregenz who had resumed pagan customs. With the help of Gallus, he put church discipline in order and the veneration of Saint Aurelia of Strasbourg , a companion of Saint Ursula , was revived.

Columban founded a small monastery there with strict rules of the order. He put so much emphasis on cleanliness that if a friar spilled beer, he had to stay still at night or drink water at the table for some time. The monks found that thick brewed beer could help as a satiety agent during fasting.

Because he and his companions caused disputes among the locals in their missionary zeal, the Duke of Überlingen asked the missionary to leave the area for the sake of peace. But Gallus stayed in the area, ostensibly because he was unable to move on due to an illness. Because Columban did not believe him, he forbade him to read mass until the day of his own death. But Gallus became the founder of the city of St. Gallen and its patron saint.

In Italy

In 612 Columban moved to Milan and got involved in the dispute over Nestorianism . A letter to Pope Boniface IV that was awarded to him is a great testimony to the Irish missionary's solidarity with the Pope . The Lombard king Agilulf bequeathed him an area called Bobbio (Piacenza province) on the Trebbia River , where he founded a monastery, today's Bobbio Abbey , and spent the time until the end of his life - despite an invitation from the Franks to return to Luxeuil. He died on November 23, 615 in Bobbio in northern Italy. Legend has it that Gallus read Holy Mass for the first time on this day in memory of his master - the certain news of his death did not reach him until weeks later.

Work and influence

With his Peregrinatio, Columban initiated a comprehensive missionary movement on the European mainland and is considered one of the most famous Irish-Scottish traveling missionaries. He was also active in the field of liturgy. Some hymns , letters, sermons and a theological treatise on penance are ascribed to him.

He had a formative influence on the Christianization of the until then pagan, i.e. Gallo-Roman rural area on the north side of the Alps. It is noteworthy that his success was largely based on the Irish- Scottish form of Christianity , which was shaped by his Irish homeland . In contrast to the Roman church model, it was significantly less hierarchical and placed great emphasis on personal relationships.

Foundations of monasteries

Columban himself had only founded three monasteries , Luxeuil (which was under one administration with Annegray and Fontaines ), Bregenz , which disappeared after a year, and Bobbio . However, as a result of his activities, the successful Irish Scottish mission on the European mainland arose . It was continued in particular by his students Eustasius († 629) and Gallus († 645) and their students Kilian von Würzburg († 689). Above all, there was a large movement to found monasteries in the countryside. Under Roman rule, Christianity was only widespread in the cities and had failed to reach the Gallo-Roman rural population in a good five centuries . This changed with Columban's wave of founding monasteries, as a result of which a movement developed - supported by the Frankish nobility - which founded around 300 new monasteries in the 7th century. With these spiritual centers, Christianity found its way into rural areas for the first time. Through their agricultural knowledge and their economic activities, the monasteries were also formative for the development of the European cultural landscape .

Spread of Columban's rule

Columban gave monasticism essential impulses through a rule of the order he wrote . His successor, Abbot Eustachius von Luxeuil, was charged with the liturgy and religious rule of Columban. Thereupon the king had the Synod of Mâcon called in 627 , at which however the rule of Columban was confirmed. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that parts of the Benedictine rule were soon practiced in the Luxeuil monastery after the abbot's death . With the founding of monasteries by the movement initiated by Columban, this rule of mixing spread strongly. Around the year 670 the Council of Autun decided that the monasteries should in future be run according to the Rule of Benedict . Nevertheless, mixed rules were often used in the following, especially with parts of Columban and Benedict. Columban's rule could not prevail over the long term against that of Benedict of Nursia , but some monasteries, especially those in the Franconian Empire, observed at least parts of his rule for a few centuries. Only through extensive reforms of Benedict of Aniane the Benedictine Rule with support was Louis the Pious about the Franks throughout the West the binding monastic rule. In this respect, Columban had a formative influence on Christianization and monastic life in Europe .


The day of remembrance of the saint is November 21 (Orthodox) and November 23 (Protestant and Roman Catholic), whereas in Ireland and among the Benedictines he is venerated on November 24; in the dioceses of Chur , St. Gallen and Feldkirch on November 27th. He is considered to be the patron saint of motorcyclists and helpers during floods. He is depicted as a bearded monk surrounded by a pack of wolves, symbolizing the adverse circumstances under which the saint often worked. The parish church of Bregenz-St. Columban is dedicated to him, and the Columban Street there is also named after him. He is also shown on the coat of arms of Sagogn (Graubünden).

See also

Individual evidence

  1. The story of beer - the secret of the wort only knew the abbot - beer lexicon. Retrieved August 4, 2020 .
  2. ^ Peter Müller: Columbans Revolution , Neufeld Verlag, Schwarzenfeld, 2008, p. 72 f.
  3. Peter Müller: Columbans Revolution , 2008, p. 39 ff.
  4. ^ JN Hillgarth: Modes of evangelization of Western Europe in the seventh century , in Proinseas NiChathain and Michael Richter (editors): "Ireland and Christianity. Bible Studies and Missions. ”, Klett, 1987, p. 322.
  5. ^ Arnold Angenendt : The early Middle Ages. Western Christianity from 400 to 900 . Kohlhammer, 1990, p. 216.
  6. ^ JN Hillgarth: Modes of evangelization of Western Europe in the seventh century. In: Proinseas NiChathain and Michael Richter (editors): Ireland and Christianity. Bible Studies and Mission. Klett, 1987, p. 329 f.
  7. Friedrich Prinz : Early monasticism in the Franconian Empire. Culture and society in Gaul, the Rhineland and Bavaria using the example of monast. Development (4th - 8th centuries) . Darmstadt 1988. pp. 147f.
  8. Friedrich Prinz: Pope Gregory the Great and Columban the Younger , in Proinseas NiChathain and Michael Richter (editors): Ireland and Europe. The church in the early Middle Ages . Klett Verlag, 1984, p. 330 f.
  9. ^ Hubert Mordek : Canon Law and Reform in the Franconian Empire: The Collectio Vetus Gallica, the oldest systematic canon collection of Franconian Gaul . Berlin 1975. pp. 84ff.
  10. Odette Pontal: The Synods in the Merovingian Empire. Paderborn u. a. 1986. pp. 197f.
  11. ^ George G. Hunter III: The Celtic Way of Evangelism. How Christianity can reach the West ... again . Abingdon Press, 2000, p. 40.
  12. ^ Peter Müller: Columbans Revolution . 2008, p. 48 f.


  • Arnold Angenendt: The Irish peregrinatio and its effects on the continent before the year 800 . in: Heinz Löwe : The Irish and Europe in the early Middle Ages. Vol. 1. Publications of the Europa-Zentrum Tübingen. Kulturwissenschaftliche Reihe, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1982. 2 vols. Pp. 52–79.
  • Arnold Angenendt: Monastery and monastery association between Benedikt von Nursia and Benedikt von Aniane , in: Hagen Keller : From the monastery to the monastery association. The tool of writing; Files from the international colloquium of the L 2 project in the SFB 231 (February 22-23, 1996) . Fink, Munich 1997, pp. 7-35.
  • Sancti Columbani Opera . Ed. by GSM Walker: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1970.
  • Walter Kettemann:  Vita Columbani. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 32, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2006, ISBN 3-11-018387-0 , pp. 453–454.
  • Bruno Krusch (Ed.): Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum separatim editi 37: Ionae Vitae sanctorum Columbani, Vedastis, Iohannis. Hanover 1905, pp. 1–294 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  • Friedrich Wilhelm BautzColumban of Luxeuil. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 1104-1105.
  • Gerold Meyer von KnonauColumban . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1876, pp. 424-426.
  • Peter Müller: Columban's Revolution. How Irish monks reached Central Europe with the gospel - and what we can learn from them. Edition IGW , Vol. 1. Neufeld Verlag , Schwarzenfeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-937896-64-9 .
  • Philipp Dörler: Columban and Gallus. Contributing to a cultural change. Writings of the Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, vol. 22. Neugebauer, Graz 2010, ISBN 978-3-85376-214-1 .
  • Bruno Broder, Heinz Eggmann, René Wagner, Silvia Widmer-Trachsel: City of St. Gallen; a geographic-historical local lore; School administration of the city of St. Gallen; Cantonal teaching material publisher St. Gallen

Web links

Commons : Columban von Luxeuil  - collection of images, videos and audio files