An Audit of Columban Heritage in County Donegal and Derry City & Strabane District Council Area

St Colmcille

Saint Colmcille (also known as Columba) was born in Donegal in 520 (or 521).  Before his death in Iona on the 9th June 593 A.D, Colmcille became one of the most influential figures in all Irish and British history.  Colmcille is one of Ireland’s patron saints, a distinction he shares with Patrick and Brigid, and he is the patron saint of Derry.  Colmcille is not only an important figure for Ireland, but as the founder of monasteries in Iona and Scotland, he was a key catalyst for the Christianisation of Northern Britain.

The Audit of Columban Heritage

This audit was prepared by Abarta Heritage for Donegal County Council, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Foras na Gaeilge, The Heritage Council and local community heritage groups to plan for the commemoration of the 1500th anniversary of the birth Colmcille which will take place in 2020/21.  The audit identifies and maps heritage sites, objects and archives associated with Colmcille and his life.  The audit includes sites that range from well-known heritage sites to places associated with Colmcille in local folklore, and it includes objects and archives in national and local repositories.

Glencolmcille where an annual Turas celebrates St Colmcille

Glencolmcille where an annual Turas celebrates St Colmcille

The research highlights the links between the Columban material culture and aspects of folklore, folk traditions, language, placenames and intangible cultural heritage which are considerable.  The audit identifies and maps the archaeological monuments and protected built heritage associated with Colmcille.  It will help to highlight conservation works that may be required to Columban built and archaeological heritage, though it must be noted that any works to, or in the vicinity of, archaeological or historic monuments require prior consent from the Minister of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The National Monuments Service can provide advice and guidance on specific issues.

This audit is separated into a series of chapters, beginning with an overview of the key sources on Colmcille, then the audit of heritage sites associated with the saint in the study area, followed by an insight into language and placenames, the objects associated with Colmcille, and it finishes with some suggested ways to commemorate Colmcille.

Commemorating Colmcille

From carrying out the audit, it became abundantly clear that there is tremendous potential in creating a unifying series of events that celebrates such a giant figure in Irish and British history.  Colmcille’s legacy covers spirituality and devotion, arts and literature, music and storytelling.  He is an internationally renowned figure that appeals across communities and that is deserving of celebration and commemoration.  We loved working on this project, and it is our hope that this audit provides a foundation to help to establish a shared programme of works and events.

The report was written by Neil Jackman and Dr. Conor Ryan.  It is copyright of Donegal County Council, Derry City & Strabane District Council and Foras na Gaeilge.

Audit of Columban Heritage