Columba possessed a superior education. He was familiar with Latin and Greek, secular and ecclesiastical history, the principles of jurisprudence, the law of nations, the science of medicine, and the laws of the mind He was the greatest Irishman of the Celtic race in mental powers; and he founded in Iona, the most learned school in the British Islands, and probably in Western Europe for a long period.

See footnote 1

WHILE the long night of the Dark Ages covered Europe and

Layer 1St. Columba’s Church garden, Donegal – Kay Atherton

darkness covered the people, the lamp of truth was shining brightly in Scotland and Ireland. Here arose the commanding figure of Columba. Here, the virile churches, one in faith, but covering two separate islands, proclaimed the truth. Ireland on the western, and Scotland on the northwestern, brink ofthe known world, stood like a wall to resist the advancing menace ofreligious tyranny. Scotland in particular, like the Waldenses in northernItaly, found in her rugged mountains strong fortresses to assist her. Columba, an Irishman, was born in Donegal in 521, and both of his parents were of royal stock. He founded a memorable college on the small island ofIona which was a lighthouse of truth in Europe for centuries. That the Celtic, not the Latin, race populated the British Isles was a determining factor, for the Christian churches in which Patrick had been reared received their doctrine, not from Rome, but from their brethren of the same faith in Asia Minor. Here was the link which connected the faith of Patrick and Columba with primitive Christianity. (2) The farthest lands touching the Atlantic saw the rise of a vigorous apostolic Christianity not connected with the Church of Rome, but independent of it. The Scottish resistance to the growing European hierarchy had its originsin the work of Columba. About the time he left the schools established by Patrick in Ireland to go to Scotland, the reactionary Council of Constantinople (A.D. 553) was being held. At that council, the churches of the Roman Empire surrendered their freedom to the Papacy. Offended at the unscriptural innovations of medieval European compromises, four large communities in the East — the Armenian, the Coptic, the Jacobite, and the Church of the East (often falsely called the Nestorian Church) —separated from the western hierarchy.(3) The news of these revolutionaryhappenings had come to the ears of the Celtic believers throughout theBritish Isles. Scotland and Ireland in the west, with the same spirit ofindependence which was manifested by these eastern communions towardimperial Christianity, girded themselves to meet the crisis. In dedicating his life to the spread of Bible religion, Columba, who was of royal descent, is said to have renounced his chance to the Irish throne.(4) He was a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish king so mighty that it is said of him that he held hostages for the nine kingdoms he had subdued.(5) Columba was also related to the renowned family of Riada who conquered for themselves a principality in northeastern Scotia (the ancient name for Ireland). The new state was Dalriada, from Dal, meaning “inheritance,” or the kingdom of the Riadians. This relationship stoodColumba well in hand when he decided to make his headquarters in Iona, because a half a century before this, members of the Dalradian clan had crossed over from Ireland and had secured for themselves a goodly portion of west central Caledonia (the former name for Scotland), and called this new kingdom also Dalriada.6 This act brought the Scots from Ireland, orScotia. As, in the course of time, the Scots of the second kingdom ofDalriada were to conquer the large kingdom in Caledonia of the Picts to thenorth and west of them and then the kingdom of the Britons, orStrathclyde, to the immediate south of them, naturally the name Scotlandcame to ancient Caledonia.7 For several centuries the two Dalriadakingdoms, one in Ireland and one in Scotland, existed contemporaneously. Thus this clan through Columba not only gave the spiritual leadership to Scotland, but later through their warriors also gained the political overlordship of it. In the providence of God, Columba appeared at this moment to mold thesesignificant revolutions. Iona, the burial ground of kings and nobles, a sacredseat of the heathen Druidic learning and religion, became the center of theCuldee Church and the college of Columba. Here this great apostle


At his birth Columba, it is said, was given two names — Crimthann, “wolf,” and Colum, “dove.”(8) However, in his later days of supreme devotion to Christ and to Bible truth, he was usually known by the second, Colum. In his early youth, the fame of Ireland’s colleges, the outgrowth of Patrick’s early organization and labors, was known far and wide. Columba, it is usually related, was first taught by Finnian of Moville. After this he removed to Leinster where he placed himself under the instruction of the bard, Gemman.(9) Probably, the most outstanding of all Columba’s teachers was the renowned Finnian of Clonard, widely known for his learning. He was popular, and he placed the Bible at the foundation of all studies. According to Archbishop Ussher, his institute had an enrollment of three thousand pupils and was likened to a university.(10) Many who came there to receive their education gave themselves to the ministry of the gospel.(11) It was atClonard that Columba became especially skillful in the art of copying and illuminating manuscripts. There he remained several years until the urgency of his spirit to help humanity, to raise up churches, and to plant mission stations sent him upon extensive labors.

Clonard – Andreas F. Borchert CC-BY


Columba was only twenty-five years of age when he built the church atDerry, in northern Ireland, where later he planted a school. This place is now the well-known Londonderry. The youthful zeal and accomplishments of this missionary greatly impressed the historian Bede who makes special mention of Derry.(12) During the seven years following the establishment of Derry, Columba founded many churches


and Biblical institutes. He is credited with bringing into existence during this period more than three hundred churches. Aboutone-third of these were the so-called “monasteries,” or church schools. Happy in his activity for God, he was constantly traveling. The sick andinfirm blessed his name, while the poor always felt that in him they had a
friend. Tall of stature, he had a powerful voice which could be heard at agreat distance. No journey was too great, no labor too arduous for him toundertake while serving the needs of the people. In Ireland, where thechieftains were constantly waging war against one another, Columbacommanded respect enough to travel in safety. He was devoted to thestudy of the Scriptures. His biographer mentions that he spent much timein writing, that is, in transcribing portions of the Bible. He is credited withhaving copied three hundred New Testaments with his own hands. He wasthe author, not only of Latin hymns, but also of poems in his native Irishtongue. A careful examination of his writings shows that in many places heuses the Itala version of the Bible. Of him Adamnan says: “He could notpass the space even of a single hour without applying himself either toprayer, or reading, or writing, or else to some manual labor. (13)


Columba was only twenty-five years of age when he built the church atDerry, in northern Ireland, where later he planted a school. This place is now the well-known Londonderry. The youthful zeal and accomplishments of this missionary greatly impressed the historian Bede who makes special mention of Derry. (12) During the seven years following the establishment of Derry, Columba founded many churches and Biblical institutes. He is credited with bringing into existence during this period more than three hundred churches. About one-third of these were the so-called “monasteries,” or church schools. Happy in his activity for God, he was constantly traveling. The sick and infirm blessed his name, while the poor always felt that in him they had a
friend. Tall of stature, he had a powerful voice which could be heard at a great distance. No journey was too great, no labor too arduous for him to undertake while serving the needs of the people. In Ireland, where the chieftains were constantly waging war against one another, Columbacommanded respect enough to travel in safety. He was devoted to the study of the Scriptures. His biographer mentions that he spent much time in writing, that is, in transcribing portions of the Bible. He is credited with having copied three hundred New Testaments with his own hands. He was the author, not only of Latin hymns, but also of poems in his native Irish tongue. A careful examination of his writings shows that in many places he uses the Itala version of the Bible. Of him Adamnan says: “He could not pass the space even of a single hour without applying himself either to prayer, or reading, or writing, or else to some manual labor. (13)


There are probably three reasons why Columba chose Scotland as his mission field. In the first place, a large part of the island, especially the country of the Picts, was still pagan. Columba longed for a mission field and a life of service. Secondly, about fifty years previous to this his own countrymen, the Dalradians, had won a kingdom in the west central portion of what is now called Scotland. Here was a door open in a dark land. Thirdly, Columba saw that he could there establish a center which would be mighty in its influence not only in Scotland, but also in England, Wales, and Ireland. After he sailed from his beloved Derry, with about two hundred of his companions, he was tempted to locate on a near-by island, when he discovered that from its highlands he could discern the coasts of Ireland. He then gave the word to sail on. He finally chose the small island of Iona, whose native name was Hy, having the large island of Mull lying between it and the mainland.14 Here he and his company disembarked in 563. In all probability, the lord of the island of Mull, being a relative of his, granted to him ownership of Iona. His followers held the island for six hundred forty-one years, until they were driven out of it in 1204 by the Benedictine monks.(15)

Pioneering in all its aspects was the story of Iona. Dwellings had to be built; crops had to be planted. In the settlement of Iona and of other centers founded by Columba and his disciples, apparently, no effort was made for pomp and ostentation. These simple missionaries allowed no entanglements either in politics or worldly affairs to hinder them from obeying the heavenly vision. Although Columba was needed to direct and oversee the establishment of these new ventures for Christ, he found time, nevertheless, to convert many persons on the large neighboring island of Mull. He founded a Christian school and training institute which later at-rained the highest reputation for the pursuit of Biblical study and science.(16) His work made this center so venerated that its abbots had the control of the bordering tribes and churches, and even their pastors (then called bishops), acknowledged the authority of these abbots. He built up in Iona a glorious center of evangelization which has made the island famous for all time. Here are buried not only kings of Scotland, but also kings of Ireland, France, Denmark, and Norway. Even to this day thousands of visitors come annually to this hallowed soil.(17)


The spirit of God wrought mightily in Columba, and in humility he chose to dwell in a rude shelter of pioneer construction. The humble abode of his energetic and learned co-workers at Iona proves that in their hearts they had brought into subjection the restless spirit of the age. Even a generation later when one of the renowned apostles of Iona erected another mission station in northwestern England, it is related that, “he built a church after the manner of the Scots, not of stone, but of hewn oak, and covered it with reeds.”(18) Unlike the ambassadors of imperial Christianity, who loved the associations of capitals and courts, these missionaries chose the wilderness if it might be their happy lot to serve God. Much ground was required to support the Iona mission. Many acres of land, orchards, and meadows were maintained by the students and faculty who combined manual labor with study. A considerable portion of the day was spent in gathering and winnowing the grain, feeding the lambs and the calves, working in the gardens, in the bakehouse, and in mechanical pursuits. These duties were alternated with classes of instruction by learned teachers and also by spending hours in prayer and in singing psalms. The care with which these theological students were trained to be the guardians of learning as well as the teachers of the gospel may be gathered from the fact that frequently eighteen years of study were required of them before they were ordained.19 In other words, Iona was not a monastery, but a great mission institute. It can be likened to the schools of the prophets of the Old Testament, or to the wonderful training centers of the Church of the East.


The fact that Ireland lay outside the bounds of the Roman Empire kept it from the saint worship, image worship, and relic worship which flooded the state church at that time. And at Iona there is no record of the theological students’ digging for relics, or sending to Rome for relics which were reputed to have belonged to some martyred Christian. There were no processions in which relics were displayed, no burning of incense or candles before a tomb. In fact, at the time when the apostle to the Picts had erected his spiritual lighthouse in Scottish Dalriada, England had yet been untouched by papal monasteries of the continental type. Happily, Columba had more than a generation in which to work before the influence of rulers on the Continent brought another type of Christianity to the shores of England. He built his church on the Bible and the Bible only. He could look to the authentic copy of the Confession of Patrick, his great predecessor, who in this short document had used twenty-five quotations from the Holy Scriptures.20 Columba taught his followers never to receive as religious truth any doctrine not sustained by proofs drawn from the Sacred Writings. Bede expressly declares that Columba sailed away from Ireland to Scotland for the definite purpose of converting heathen to the word of God.21 It is said of Baithen, the successor of Columba at Iona, that he had no equal this side of the Alps in his knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures and in his understanding of science.22The Columban system of institutions was a confederation of spiritual centers held together by invisible bonds of grace and truth, each locality looking to the brotherhood as the final source of authority. It had no pope, and it had no descending steps of clergy like archbishop, bishop, priest, and deacon. The headman of each locality was generally the abbot of the mission institute.23 These centers of spiritual life and training grew into well-organized institutions splendidly adapted to the spreading of Bible truths. For many centuries Iona was recognized as the leading center, whose chief officer besides being called an abbot, was also known as the coarb, or spiritual successor, of Columba.24 While there was a term resembling the word “bishop” sometimes used to designate the clergy, it did not mean a bishop in the twentieth-century acceptation of the term.25 The word“Culdee,” meaning “man of God,” was later used to designate the Columban church. Maclauchlan states that, generally speaking, most of the features which can be shown to have characterized the Scottish Church, even at the later period, were such that no Protestant could censure them.26 Success attended these consecrated men as they pioneered in the conversion of the northern and western parts of Scotland, and Christianized the center of Scotland and the eastern portion of England by Iona’s colonies. The remains of places of worship, which still stand in the north and are found to extend to the farthest distance of the Hebrides, testify to the all-pervading influence of the Culdee Church. (27)

There was a continual stream of missionaries from the churches of Ireland and Scotland flowing toward the continental church, of which we have ample evidence in the numerous Gaelic MSS. belonging to these churches found in continental monasteries.”

See footnote 28


If it be true that Columba with his own hand copied three hundred NewTestaments, as well as portions of the Old Testament, what must have been the output of Iona when all the workers assigned to the making of manuscripts produced their contribution? It must not be forgotten that Columba, while supervising the institutions in Scotland, never relinquished the care of the many training centers he had established in Ireland during the first forty years of his life. It is small wonder that the Irish and Scottish Churches covered the British Isles and the continent of Europe with their thousands of missionary centers in a short period. Lucy Menzies, in her life of Columba, gives the following excellent presentation of the copying done by the Scottish Church:

In this as in everything connected with the spread of Christianity in Scotland, we have to look to Ireland for the history and development of the art. Letters were known in Ireland before St.Patrick’s day; he used to instruct his disciples in the art of writing. The characters and designs used by these early scribes were probably of Byzantine origin and would come to Ireland from Ravenna through Gaul. The Irish adapted them to their own idea of beauty, but though early Irish manuscripts have features peculiar to Ireland, similar interlacings are found in early Italian churches, especially in those of Ravenna. These interlacings symbolized life and immortality, having neither beginning nor end. Designs of interlaced ribbon work, plaited rushes, bands, cords, and knots are common to the earliest art of various peoples, and when the first missionaries came to Ireland bringing copies of the Gospels, they naturally brought this art with them. The object of the writing was, of course, to multiply copies of the Scriptures…. There must have been at Iona a separate room or hut where the writing materials were kept, a library where those engaged in transcribing theScriptures might work, where the polaires containing the finished copies hung on the walls and where the valuable manuscripts were kept.”

See footnote 29

The youth in the Culdee schools clung to the fundamental Christian doctrines, such as the divinity of Christ, baptism, the atonement, inspiration of the Scriptures, and the prophecies connected with the last days. They did not accept the doctrines of infallibility, celibacy, transubstantiation, the confessional, the mass, relic worship, image adoration, and the primacy of Peter. As Killen says:

The monastery was, in fact, a college where all the branches of learning then known were diligently cultivated; where astronomy was studied; where Greek as well as Latin literature entered into the curriculum; where the sons of kings and nobles received tuition; and where pious and promising youths were training up for the sacred office…. But theology was the subject with which the attention of the teachers of the monastery was chiefly occupied; the Bible was their daily textbook; their pupils were required to commit much of it to memory.

See footnote 30

The last hours of Columba are recorded as follows:

“Having continued his labors in Scotland thirty-four years, he clearly and openly foretold his death, and on Saturday, the ninth ofJune, said to his disciple Diermit: “This day is called the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, and such will it truly be to me; for it will put an end to my labors.”

See footnote 3


It is written of Saul in the divine word that “them went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.” In like manner some members of the noble galaxy surrounding Columba were so filled with the flame of livingfire that they subdued unconquerable warriors of that northern land forChrist. Standing first among these contemporaries of Columba

was Baithen. Unwilling always to be sheltered under the wing of Iona, theparent institution, he obtained leave to sail westward to the island of Tireewhere he built a subordinate training center. Then, after having spread theinfluence of Iona over northwestern Scotland, he returned to the originalcenter to become its head after Columba died. Although privileged tooccupy the abbot’s seat for only four years prior to his death, he obtainedwidespread fame for remarkable learning and courageous labors. It would be thrilling to read how Kenneth, Ciaran, Colmonnel, Donnan,Molaise, and others pushed their way southward into the promontories ofKintyre; to the Western Isles, or Hebrides; to the beautiful counties ofFife, Forfarshire, Aberdeen, which look out toward the waters of Norway;and above all, to northern Scotland, especially the counties of Caithness,Sutherland, and Ross. Here the members of the Celtic Church convertedthe heathen and built churches; they founded institutions copied after themodel of Iona; they distributed Bibles, taught the people to read, and firedtheir converts with their own missionary zeal. If Iona was the center of the northern Picts, so Abemethy became the same to the southern Picts. They pushed farther south into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. As early as the middle of the seventh century, or about one hundred years after the founding of Iona, several large and influential mission schools had sprung up in the British Isles.32 Probably next to Iona in fame is Lindisfarne on the northeastern coast of England. This spiritual center is prominently connected with Aidan whose work is considered in Chapter12.


The four hundred years following the establishment of Iona are noted for three events in England and Scotland. First, there was intense rivalry and warfare between the seven kingdoms of England, known as the Heptarchy, and the three kingdoms of Scotland. Second, all three countries-England, Ireland, and Scotland, harassed, invaded, and in the case of England and Ireland, conquered by the Northmen, especially the Danes. Third, and probably the most far-reaching event, was the intense struggle waged between the Papacy and the Celtic Church. In Scotland the kingdoms of the Picts and the Britons were finally absorbed by the ever-increasing Scots. If England suffered such serious consequences at the hands of the Normans, and Ireland at the hands of the Danes, it can readily be seen how difficult must have been the struggle of the Celtic Church to hold its own against the power of the Papacy when backed by the all-powerful states of the Continent.Within the one hundred twenty-five years after the death of Columba, the Picts had been swayed enough by the mighty influence of Rome to adopt the Roman Easter. Nevertheless, the change in Easter did not represent a complete surrender to the Papacy. About the same time Nechtan, the Pietish king, expelled the Columban clergy. When, however, the conqueringKenneth MacAlpine, king of the Scots, in 846, united under the one crown the Scots and the Picts, he brought the Columban clergy back in honor. He was the king who removed the seat of the government from Iona to Forteviot, the ancient capital of the Pictish kingdom. In his day the Danes were furiously assaulting the coasts, making inroads among the WesternIsles, while they practically seized supreme power in both Ireland and
England. Fierce warriors as they were, they soon learned that they were no match for the Scots. Scotland must have been a wealthy country at this time because, in those northern latitudes, it attracted the century-long invasion of the Northmen. It is interesting to add that in the midst of these commotions Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland, while the thistle was chosen for its national emblem. The latter was selected because of a historic incident: When the Danes were about to make a surprise attack, a warrior planting his foot on the thistle uttered a cry of pain loud enough to be heard by the fighting Scots.Although the Danes frequently burned and pillaged Iona, the veneration for it was so great and the pilgrimages made to it so many that it could not long remain in a devastated condition. It was a learned and righteous clergy which directed the Culdee Church, and they were so beloved by the people that this communion was deeply rooted in the affections of all. It must be kept in mind that through the two centuries that the Northmen fought to plant themselves in Scotland, the Danes were still heathen. It is repeatedly recorded how devout kings, warriors, and people would seize the remains of Columba and carry them to a place of safety, sometimes in Ireland, and sometimes further east in Scotland. For some time the bishop of Armagh in Ireland stood forth as the successor of both Columba and Patrick, the two offices often being united in the same person. Through these years as one kingdom sought to conquer another, the warring powers would naturally call for allies. Here was the chance of the Papacy. As the centuries passed, the Celtic Church and the civil rulers who were pro-Celtic would look across to the Continent, but they could discern no great nation which had not made an alliance with Rome.The dates, 1058 and 1066, stand for startling changes. There were only eight years between the time when Malcolm III became king of Scotland, and the year that William the Norman conquered England. By the time Malcolm III had reached the throne, the aggressive Scots had succeeded in absorbing Strathclyde, the northwest kingdom of the Britons. Vigorously they had extended their territory southward to the River Tweed. As the Northmen were still in possession of the Western Isles, they had driven a wedge between Ireland and Scotland. Since it was the Papacy that abetted the Norman invasion of England by William, the church of Columba in Scotland found herself alone without any strong political backing in Ireland, England, or on the Continent.Moreover, Malcolm III, or Malcolm Canmore (that is, “large head”), had been educated in England in company with the Roman Catholic king, Edward the Confessor. When he came to the throne of Scotland he was the least imbued with the Celtic atmosphere and Celtic ideas of any of his predecessors. Yet as late as 1058, the Scottish Church remained largely as it had been modeled by its early teachers. But the crowning of Malcolm brought these believers in early Christianity into a fierce struggle. Malcolm III took Margaret as his second wife, a girl who had been determined to enter a nunnery. She was a member of one of the former royal houses of England. In exile in Hungary, she and her brothers. were brought up in a strong Catholic atmosphere. Malcolm III was passionately devoted to her because she had renounced her plan to become a nun to marry him.However, in return she took charge of religious affairs and, instructed by some of the ablest men of the papal church from England and the Continent, set in motion the force which for three centuries placed the church of Columba in the shadows.


Margaret found the Scottish Church a church of the people; she determined to make it the church of the monarch. The passion of her life might be summed up in one word — Rome. As Dr. Barnett writes: “Hungary was a strongly Roman Catholic country…. Here we touch the first vital source from which Queen Margaret drew her passionate attachment to the Roman Church.”(33) And again he writes, “Zeal for the church literally consumed her.”(34) What her purposes were in marrying Malcolm III, king of Scotland, this same writer states further, “Margaret very soon after her marriage is setting about a movement to Romanize and Anglicize the ancient Celtic Church in Scotland.”35 Still another quotation from the same author helps to clarify the vast and determined purpose of this queen:

“It will be readily understood, therefore, that this saintly queen who had been brought up among the comparative magnificence of monastic religion, first in Hungary, and then in England where
buildings like Westminster Abbey were being conceived, would beanxious to bring the church in the land of her adoption into line with all-powerful Rome.”

See footnote 36

The contest which now opened was a strife between the throne and the people. In herself the queen possessed the weapon of a keen intellect, a strong memory, a readiness in subtle expression, and a polemic training in the defense of papal doctrines. She also brought to the battle a group of monastic scholars who could both prompt and protect her in her attacks on the Celtic Church. When Margaret landed on the shores of Fife with her retinue, the people witnessed the largest vessels ever seen on Caledonianshores. The inhabitants of these rural glades beheld the beauty of the Saxon princess. However, they placed a greater value upon the grace of God than upon the queen’s rubies and diamonds. Both the Scriptures and the life and deeds of Columba had taught them the love of the spiritual. To destroy the glory of Columba was impossible. Margaret might as well attempt to degrade the apostle Paul. In five hundred years the love of Scotland for Columba had not dulled. A more feasible avenue to success would be to legislate against the religious customs of the Celtic Church. Margaret never hesitated to unite church and state. Like Constantine, she joined together that which Christ had put asunder. Beginning with a Sunday law, she proceeded to the demolition of the Celtic Church. How little does the public suspect that religious legislation to enforce Easter and Sunday has often been the method of choking the life out of a liberty-loving church. This procedure was used by Margaret. The queen called an ecclesiastical congress, and for three days she sat in the chair. She argued, cajoled, commanded, and within a soft glove manipulated an iron hand. The blunt, impatient, warlike king stood by her side with his hand on the hilt of the sword. Did not the emperor Constantine support the episcopal chair at the great Council of Nicaea, in 325, when a pompous church became the spouse of the Roman Empire? Did not King Oswy preside in northern England at the Council of Whitby (A.D. 664), when a terrible blow was struck at the Celtic Church amid the Anglo-Saxons? And so Malcolm’s fervent love for his consort led him to place the full power of the state behind the queen.


Though details are lacking, it is not difficult to picture the leaders of Columba’s church in Scotland as, for three days, they were obliged to listen to the proceedings of Margaret’s council. There were points of difference as is recorded in her Life, written by her priestly confessor, Turgot.(37) The first two points were relative to the age long controversy about Easter. It was all a matter of religious opinion, with which the government had no right to concern itself. As to the third point, on the celebration of the mass, some authorities think this was an indignant threat, because the Culdees conducted the services of the Lord’s Supper not in Latin, as Rome did, but in the native language. The question of Sabbath and Sunday was particularly contested. As shown previously in quotations from Drs. Flick and Barnett, (38) the traditional practice of the Celtic Church was to observe Saturday instead of Sunday as the day of rest. This position is supported by a host of authors. The Roman Catholic historian, Bellesheim, gives the claim of the queen and describes the practice of the Scots as follows:

The queen further protested against the prevailing abuse of Sunday desecration. “Let us,” she said, “venerate the Lord’s day, inasmuch as upon it our Savior rose from the dead: let us do not servile work on that day.”…The Scots in this matter had no doubt kept up the traditional practice of the ancient monastic Church of Ireland, which observed Saturday rather than Sunday as a day of rest.”

See footnote 39

Andrew Lang writing upon the general practice of the Celtic Church says: “They worked on Sunday, but kept Saturday in a sabbatical manner.”40Another author states:

It seems to have been customary in the Celtic churches of early times, in Ireland as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest from labor. They obeyed the fourth commandment literally upon the seventh day of the week.”

See footnote 41

The historian Skene in commenting upon the work of Queen Margaret also reveals the prominence of the Sabbath question as follows:

Her next point was that they did not duly reverence the Lord’sday, but in this latter instance they seemed to have followed a custom of which we find traces in the early monastic Church of Ireland, by which they held Saturday to be the Sabbath on which they rested from all their labors, and on Sunday on the Lord’s day, they celebrated the resurrection.”

See footnote 42

As pointed out in the story of Patrick, the opposition to the TenCommandments failed to recognize that the culminating reason for the death of Christ upon the cross was that while becoming man’s substitute He was to uphold the moral law. The papal church denies that it was as man’s substitute and surety that Christ died on the cross.43 Columba, however, did recognize this truth. A verse from the poem by him addressed to his Redeemer reads as follows:

As Thou didst suffer on the cross

To save a guilty race

Show me Thy power, with Thy love

And glory grant, with grace

See footnote 44

Nothing so quickly leads to persecution as Sunday laws. In a land like Scotland there could be the Anglo-Saxon sect observing Sunday, the Celtic Church consecrating Saturday from the days of the apostles, Moslemsobserving Friday, and unbelievers celebrating no day. A law which would single out any one certain day of the week and exalt it to sacredness would be sectarian legislation. Soon the favored sect would indulge in feelings of superiority and point the finger of scorn at those conscientiously observing another day. Bitterness would set in speedily, followed by persecution.In this way the Culdees were ordered to conform or to depart. When KingDavid, the son of Margaret, had confiscated their Loch Leven lands, he ordered them to conform to the rites of the Sunday-keeping monks, on whom he had conferred the dispossessed property, or to be expelled.45Needless to day, they were expelled. This was in the year 1130.


The unscrupulousness of the victors in destroying or in misrepresenting the records of the past has placed a false face over the true story of the Celtic Church. (46) The gulf between that church and the Papacy was great even as late as 1120. A severe difference arose between King Alexander, another son of Margaret, and Eadmer, a newly appointed head to the bishopric of Saint Andrews. When he asked counsel of two Canterbury monks, they made a remarkable statement, “For they say that Eadmercannot accommodate himself to the usages of the Scottish Church without dishonoring his character and hazarding his salvation.”47 Although Rome admits that as late as 1120 the usages of the Culdees were so far from those of Rome that a bishop would endanger his eternal salvation to follow them, yet at the same time she did to Scotland’s hero as she had done to Patrick — enrolled Columba as a Roman Saint.

It is a remarkable fact that those very regions in which the Iro-Scottish mission work was most successful during the sixth and seventh centuries were precisely the regions in which the evangelical sects of the later times flourished most.

See footnote 48

The transformations in character and practices wrought by Columba and his successors elevated the condition of women, brought loving attention to the children, produced Bible-loving believers, brought proper relations between church and state, and breathed an enduring missionary life into a vigorous western people. In Scotland the seeds were sown plentifully and deep. There was a rich evangelical subsoil. This enrichment endured long, although the growth was later covered by a layer of papal practices and traditions. When the Reformation came to this realm, it was to a large extent a reversal of the royal establishment of popery in Scotland. The Papacy had been unable to wholly exterminate the faith and simpler system of the ancient Culdees, especially in those districts which were the earliest abodes and latest retreats of primitive Christianity. As there were reformers in nearly every country in Europe before the Reformation, it could not be far wrong to conclude that they also continued to exist in that country which was the last to register its public protest against the usurpation of the Church of Rome.“No religion ever has been destroyed by persecution if the people confessing it were not destroyed.” The ancient faith of Columba was handed down from father to son enshrouded in lasting love and affection. The sufferings which the Scots underwent at the hand of the usurping religion also deepened their faith even as expression deepens impression. Encroachments of the Romanists were firmly resisted. As appears later, individuals of the Waldensian communion as well as followers of Wycliffe were found in Scotland during the days of papal supremacy there. The final and permanent uprising against religious tyranny came when theReformation secured this land as one of her greatest allies. It is not an injustice to history to say that Scotland twice saved the world for theReformation. At length the Church in the Wilderness triumphed, due in no small degree to the impetus given it by the wonderful organization and godly life of Columba.


1. Cathcart, The Ancient British and Irish Churches, p. 185.
2 Moore, The Culdee Church, pp. 23-29.
3 Innes, Church and State, pp. 52, 53.
4 Menzies, Saint Columba of Iona, p. 1.
5 Jamieson, Historical Account of the Ancient Culdees of Iona, p. 21.
6 Menzies, Saint Columba of Iona, Introduction, pp. 31, 1.
7 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, pp. 10, 135, 136.
8 Dowden, The Celtic Church in Scotland, p. 86.
9 Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, Summary, p. 15.
10 Stokes, Ireland and the Celtic Church, p. 101.
11 Cathcart, The Ancient British and Irish Churches, p. 183
12 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England, b. 3, ch. 4.
13 Adamnan, Life of St. Columba, Summary, p. li.
14 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England, b. 3, chs. 3, 4.
15 Menzies, Saint Columba of Iona, Appendix, p. 215.
16 Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. 3,p. 10.
17 On my visit to Iona, I was moved not so much by the sight of the broken remnants of papal edifices which marked the later domination of Rome, nor by the tombs of kings and nobles, but by the holy ground where Columba and his successors prayed and sacrificed to save a heathen world.
18 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England, b. 3, ch. 25.
19 Moore, The Culdee Church, p. 48.
20 DeVinne, History of the Irish Primitive Church, p. 47.
21 Bede, Ecclesiastical History of England, b. 3, ch. 4.
22 Fitzpatrick, Ireland and the Making of Britain, p. 21.431
23 Killen, The Old Catholic Church, p. 294.
24 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, p. 428.
25 Jamieson, Historical Account of the Ancient Culdees of Iona, p. 36.
26 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, p. 327.
27 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, p. 336.
28 Ibid., p. 380.
29 Menzies, Saint Columba of Iona, pp. 68, 70.
30 Killen, The Old Catholic Church, p. 292.
31 Butler, Lives of the Saints, vol. 6, p. 139.
32 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, p. 226.
33 Barnett, Margaret of Scotland: Queen and Saint, p. 7.
34 Ibid., p. 87.
35 Barnett, Margaret of Scotland: Queen and Saint, p. 41.
36 Ibid., p. 87.
37 Barnett, Margaret of Scotland: Queen and Saint, p. 89.
38 See Chapter 7, entitled, “Patrick, Organizer of the Church in the Wilderness in Ireland.”
39 Bellesheim, History of the Catholic Church of Scotland, vol. 1, pp. 249,250.
40 Lang, A History of Scotland, vol. 1, p. 96.
41 Moffat, The Church in Scotland, p. 140.
42 Skene, Celtic Scotland, vol. 2, p. 349.
43 See note 53 of Chapter 7, of this book.
44 Smith, The Life of Columba, p. 142.
45 Maclauchlan, Early Scottish Church, pp. 400-403.
46 Ibid., p. 390.
47 Ibid., p. 395.48 Newman, A Manual of Church History, vol. 1, p. 414.

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