Colmcille 1500 celebrations on the way in Donegal

A year of events celebrating the birth of the Gartan-born saint to be launched

Colmcille 1500 Celebrations on the way throughout Donegal

The statue of St Columba situated at St Columb’s Park in Derry. Picture: Jim McCafferty Photography

Next Monday will be a red-letter day in Donegal when a year of events celebrating the birth of the Gartan-born saint, Colmcille will be launched.

It promises to be a year to remember!

While the exact date of the saint's birth is disputed - it's either December 520 or as others believe 521 – his birthplace, Gartan, is not.

But to ensure both avenues in regard to his birthdate were covered it was decided to run events from December 2020 until December 2021. 

As most of us learned at school, Colmcille is a significant figure in the early Irish church and is often credited with the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and further afield.

He founded many monasteries, the most significant of these being the monastery at Iona. 

In Ireland, Colmcille is one of the three patron saints along with Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget and is widely celebrated, especially in his home area of Donegal and Derry.

For this reason, a number of events are being held around Donegal and Derry on December 6-7 to kick-start a year of celebrations and commemorations.

In Derry an event which is sure to attract much Donegal interest is the launch by The Churches Trust of a digital presentation, Columba @ 1500.

This will be on December 7.

This digital launch will include a micro documentary to bring awareness to the anniversary of Columba, an introduction to the man, the mission and his relevance today across the Christian faith traditions.
Across the border, in Inishowen, the Columba Community will begin their year-long programme of events to celebrate their patron with an all-night vigil of prayer in St Canice’s Oratory in the Celtic Prayer Garden, IOSAS Centre, Muff.

The vigil will begin at midnight on Sunday, December 6 and continue until 6 am the next

And as the year moves on Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council have a wide variety of projects and events planned. Their programme has been developed based on extensive consultation undertaken for the Audit of Columban Cultural Heritage.
The planned programme includes the appointment of a Colmcille 1500 Project Manager to coordinate the commemorations; conservation works to selected Columban archaeological and built heritage sites; public art commission on the N56 between Letterkenny and Kilmacrennan; major cross-border exhibition on the life of Colmcille; production of an educational resource pack for primary schools; academic conference at the Magee College campus of Ulster University; and a cross-border production by An Grianán Theatre of Brian Friel’s play The Enemy Within.

Of special significance in the saint's birthplace, Gartan, it is planned that on the afternoon of December 6 there will be a walk from Eithne's Well (Columba’s mother) to Lacknacoo- High Cross Bed (possible birthplace).

In the evening at 9.15pm Rosary and Examen will take place at St. Columba’s Glendowan RC Chapel.

At 10pm an Ecumenical Night Prayer at St Columba's Church of Ireland, Gartan and an overnight vigil (people or groups praying at various hours overnight - at home).

On Monday, December 7 at 7am there will be Mass at St Columba’s RC, Glendowan which will be broadcast on RTE News Now as 10am Mass and at 8.30am as the sun comes up, there will be Ecumenical Morning Prayer for St Columba's Day at St Colmcille’s/Gartan Abbey.

A number of other events will be held in the area throughout the day. As numbers attending are restricted all events can be accessed online:

For further information on events in the Gartan area contact

Ulster University and Éigse Cholm Cille, the Irish language literary society based at Magee campus, will host a virtual conference for schools to mark the 1500 years since the birth of Colmcille as part of the city and region’s commemorations on  December 7.

This year’s conference will feature a series of six-half hour seminars, designed to remember the saint and focusing on specific themes: History by Brian Lacey; Literature by Máire Ní Annracháin; Language by Iain Mac a’Phearsain; Folklore by Seosamh Ó Ceallaigh; Writing by Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird and Music by Lárán Ní Néill and Mairéad Comer.

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