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Britain and its many distant islands. They built up the faith by their holy lives, their preaching, and their enthusiasm, and wisely provided for its perpetuation by educating a native clergy and by the founding of monastic institutions.
They were not yet satisfied, so they turned towards other lands to bring to other peoples the glad tidings of salvation.
GAUL: In 590 St. Columbanus, a monk of Bangor in Ireland, accompanied by twelve brethren, arrived in France, having passed through Britain. After the example of St. Columcille in Caledonia, they traveled to the court of Gontram, king of Burgundy, in order to secure his help and protection. During the course of the journey they preached to the people, and all were impressed with their modesty, patience, and devotion. At that epoch Gaul was sadly in need of such missionaries, for, owing partly to the invasion of barbarians and partly to remissness on the part of the clergy, vice and impiety everywhere prevailed. Columbanus, because of his zeal, sanctity, and learning, was well fitted for the task that lay before him. One of his early works in Burgundy was the founding of the monastery of Luxeuil, which became the parent of many other monasteries founded either by himself or by his disciples. Many holy men came from Ireland to join the community, and so numerous did the monks of Luxeuil become that separate choirs were formed to keep up perpetual praisethe “laus perennis”. But Columbanus did not remain at Luxeuil. In his strict uncompromising preaching he spared not even kings, and he preferred to leave his flourishing monastery rather than pass over in silence the vices of the Merovingians. He escaped from the malice of Brunehaut, and, being banished from Burgundy, made his way to Neustria, and thence to Metz. Full of zeal, he resolved to preach the faith to the pagans along the Rhine, and with this purpose set out with a few of his followers. They proceeded as far as the Lake of Zurich, and finally established themselves at Bregentz, on the Lake of Constance.
By this time his disciple St. Gall had learned the Alemannian dialect, which enabled him to push forward the work of evangelization. But Columbanus felt that he was called to labor in other lands while vigor remained to him, so, bidding his
favorite follower farewell, he crossed the Alps and arrived at Milan in northern Italy. King Agilulph and his queen, Theodelinda, gave the Irish abbot a reverent and kind welcome. His zeal was still unspent, and he worked much for the conversion of the Lombard Arians. Here he founded, between Milan and Genoa, the monastery of Bobbio, which as a centre of knowledge and piety was long the light of northern Italy. In this monastery he died in the year 615, but not before the arrival of messengers from King Clothaire, inviting him to return to Luxeuil, as his enemies were now no more. But he could not go; all he asked was protection for his dear monks at Luxeuil.
It has been said most truly that Ireland never sent a greater son to do God's work in foreign lands than Columbanus. The fruit of his labors remained; and for centuries after his death his influence was widely felt throughout Europe, especially in France and Italy. His zeal for the interests of God was unbounded, and this was the secret of his immense power. Some of his writings have come down to us, and comprise his Rule for Monks, his Penitential, sixteen short sermons, six letters, and several poems, all in Latin. His letters are of much value as evidence of Ireland's ancient belief in papal supremacy.
SWITZERLAND: Gall, Columbanus's disciple, remained in Switzerland. In a fertile valley, lying between two rivers and surrounded by hills, he laid the beginnings of the great abbey which afterwards bore his name and became one of the most famous monasteries in Christendom. St. Gall spent thirty years of his life in Helvetia, occupying himself in teaching, preaching, and prayer. He succeeded where others had failed, and that which was denied to Columbanus was reserved for Gall, his disciple, and the latter is entitled the Apostle of Alemannia.
Other districts had their Irish missionaries and apostles. Not far from St. Gall, at Seckingen, near Basle, St. Fridolin was a pioneer in the work of evangelization.
Towards the close of the seventh century St. Kilian, an Irishman, with his companions, Totnan and Colman, arrived in Franconia. He was martyred in Würtzburg, where he is honored as patron and apostle.
Sigisbert, another Irish follower of St. Columbanus, spread the faith among the half-pagan people of eastern Helvetia, and founded the monastery of Dissentis in Rhaetia.
St. Ursanne, a little town on the boundaries of Switzerland, took its origin from another disciple of St. Columbanus.
OTHER APOSTLES AND FOUNDERS: Desire for solitary life drew St. Fiacre to a hermitage near Meaux, where he transformed wooded glades into gardens to provide vegetables for poor people. This charity has earned for Fiacre the title of patron saint of gardeners.
St. Fursey, the illustrious apostle of East Anglia, crossed over to France, where he travelled and preached continuously. He built a monastery at Lagny-sur-Marne, and was about to return to East Anglia when he died at Mézerolles, near Doullens. St. Gobham followed his master's example, and like him evangelized and founded monasteries. St. Etto (Zé) acted in like manner. St. Foillan and St. Ultan, brothers of St. Fursey, became apostles in southern Brabant.
The monastery of Honau, on an island near Strasburg, and that of Altomünster, in Bavaria, owe their foundation to the Irish monks Tuban and Alto, respectively.
Not far from Luxeuil was the Abbey of Lure, another great Irish foundation, due to Deicolus (Desle, Dichuill), a brother of St. Gall and a disciple of St. Columbanus. So important was this house considered in later times that its abbot was numbered among the princes of the Holy Roman Empire.
kouen, in Normandy, felt the influence of the Irish monks through the instrumentality of St. Ouen; and the monasteries of Jouarre, Rebais, Jumièges, Leuconaus, and St. Vandrille were due at least indirectly to Columbanus or his disciples.
Turning to Belgium, it is recorded that St. Romold preached the faith in Mechlin, and St. Livinus in Ghent. Both came from Ireland.
St. Virgilius, a voluntary exile from Erin, "for the love of Christ”, established his monastery at Salzburg, in Austria. He became bishop there, and died in 781.
Moreover, the Celtic Rule of Columbanus was carried into Picardy by St. Valery, St. Omer, St. Bertin, St. Mummolin, and St. Valdelenus; but the Irish Caidoc and Fricor had
already preceded them, their work resulting in the foundation of the Abbey of St. Riquier.
ITALY: Something yet remains to be said of the monks of Ireland in Italy. Anterior to St. Columbanus's migration, his fellow countryman, St. Frigidian (or Fridian), had taken up his abode in Italy at Monte Pisana, not far from the city of Lucca, where he became famed for sanctity and wisdom. On the death of the bishop of Lucca, Frigidian was compelled to occupy the vacant see. St. Gregory the Great wrote of him that "he was a man of rare virtue". His teachings and holy life not only influenced the lives of his own flock, but brought to the faith many heretics and pagans. In Lucca this Celtic apostle is still honored under the name of St. Frediano.
St. Pellegrinus is another Irish saint who sought solitude at Garfanana in the Apennines; and Cathaldus, a Waterford saint, in 680, became Bishop of Taranto, which he governed for many years with zeal and great wisdom. His co-worker was Donatus, his brother, who founded the church at Lecce in the Kingdom of Naples.
Of the two learned Irishmen, Clemens and Albinus, who resided in France in the eighth century, Albinus was sent into Italy, where at Pavia he was placed at the head of the school attached to St. Augustine's monastery. Dungal, his compatriot, was a famous teacher in the same city. Lothair thus ordained concerning him: "We desire that at Pavia, and under the superintendence of Dungal, all students should assemble from Milan, Brescia, Lodi, Bergamo, Novara, Vercelli, Tortona, Acqui, Genoa, Asti, Como."
It was this same Dungal who presented the Bangor psalter to Bobbio; therefore it may be reasonably conjectured that he came from the very monastery that produced Columbanus, Gall, and Comgall.
Fiesole, in Tuscany, venerates two Irish eighth-century saints, Donatus and Andrew. The former was educated at Iniscaltra, and Andrew was his friend and disciple. After visiting Rome, they lingered at Fiesole. Donatus was received with great honor by clergy and people and was requested to fill their vacant bishopric. With much hesitation he took upon himself the burden, which he bore for many years.
biographer says of him that "he was liberal in almsgiving, sedulous in watching, devout in prayer, excellent in doctrine, ready in speech, holy in life." Andrew, who was his deacon, founded the church and monastery of St. Martin in Mensola, and is known in Fiesole as St. Andrew of Ireland, or St. Andrew the Scot, that is, the Irishman.
HOSPITALIA: Thus Irish monks were to be found in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, and even in Bulgaria. So numerous were they and so frequent their travels through the different countries of Europe that hospices were founded to befriend them. These institutions were known as “Hospitalia Scottorum (“Hospices for the Irish”), and their benefactors were not only pious laymen but the highest ecclesiastical authorities. Sometimes the hospices were diverted to purposes other than those originally intended, and then Church Councils would intervene in favor of the lawful inheritors. Thus in 845 we read that the Council of Meaux ordered the hospices in France to be restored to the dispossessed Irishmen. In the twelfth century Ireland still continued to send forth a constant succession of monk-pilgrims, renowned for faith, austerity, and piety.
RATISBON: Special monasteries were erected to be peopled by the Irish. The most renowned of these dates from 1067, when Marianus Scotus (“Marianus the Irishman"), with his companions, John and Candidus, left his native land and arrived in Bavaria. These holy men were welcomed at Ratisbon by the Bishop Otto; and on the advice of Murcherat, an Irish recluse, took up their residence near St. Peter's church at the outskirts of the city. Novices flocked from Ireland to join them and a monastery was erected to receive the munity. In a short time this had to be replaced by a still larger one, which was known to future ages as the Abbey of St. James's of the Scots (that is, Irish) at Ratisbon. How prolific was this parent foundation is evidenced from its many offshoots, the only surviving monasteries on the continent for many centuries intended for Irish brethren. These, besides St. James's at Erfurt and St. Peter's at Ratisbon, comprised St. James's at Würtzburg, St. Giles's at Nuremberg, St. Mary's at Vienna, St. James's at Constance, St. Nicholas's at Mem