4201 Albemarle Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20016
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Columba, or “Columcille” in Gaelic, was a 6th-century Irish monk who was exiled to an island off the west coast of Scotland called Iona. (Iona is the Latinized form of the Hebrew name Jonah, which means dove—as does Columba in Latin.)
Accounts differ about what caused Columba to leave his beloved Ireland. The story we tell most often is that Columba, who had a passion for books, was accused by a local abbot of copying a monastery’s prized copy of a Gospel without permission. In the trial that ensued, Columba was ordered to surrender the copy he had made. He refused, inciting a battle in which many died. Overcome by remorse, Columba sailed from Ireland with 12 monks, swearing that he would stop and build a new monastery only when he could no longer see his homeland.
The community Columba founded on Iona became the center for an early, northern renaissance in which books, art, music and culture were preserved in the face of the encroaching “dark age.” Columba and his monks were vigorous and tireless missionaries who did much to keep Christianity alive in Europe.
For more on Columba, stop by the Craig Eder Library on the second floor of our building, where there is an entire section dedicated to our patron saint and Celtic roots. Don’t have time to browse? Check out our online catalogue in advance to see what books we have to offer.
The banner image of a boat comes from one of our stained glass windows. Look around next time you're at church and see if you can find it.
Photo: Wayne C. Fowler