Columcille, or Columba was born in Ireland in early December 521, into the royal clan in Donegal. His name means “dove of the church.” According to legend, after being condemned by a Synod, Columcille left Ireland to take the word of God to foreign parts.
In 563 he landed on the holy Isle of Iona in northwest Scotland with twelve companions. Together they set up a monastery and so began the evangelization of Scotland and northern England. Columba was an Irish prince as well as a monk, and many of his people, the Scots of Del Riata in Ulster, followed him and settled in Alba (Scotland). Columba carried the gospel to the native Picts. He died on Iona on 9th June 597.
2021 has marked the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St Columba, or Colmcille as he’s known in Gaelic. Columba was a key figure in Scottish history, helping to embed Christianity but also bringing with him artistic styles that would spread across Scotland. From the art of high crosses to the places named for him, Columba’s Scotland shows us how our understanding of the landscape is shaped by our history, as well as forming an inspiring jumping off point for exploring the country.
With so many aspects of his legacy to explore, we were inspired by Columba’s role as the Patron Saint of Poetry to think about him and his relationship to Scotland in new ways. Over twenty weeks, poet in residence Alex Aldred created a new body of work that responds to both the landscape that Columba would have visited and the myths that surround him.
As the Patron Saint of Poetry, we are commemorating and celebrating Columba through the creation of poetry that explores his connection to Scotland and its historic environment. Poet in Residence Alex Aldred spent twenty weeks with us, exploring Columba’s relationship to our sites and the Scottish landscape in order to create a new body of works in response to Columba’s Scotland.