The Irish saint and monastic founder, Columba the Younger, or Columbanus ('the Little Dove') as he was more affectionately known (c.550-615), can appear a stern and unsympathetic character. He was a man of extremes who provoked mixed reactions both from his and from our own, more recent, contemporaries. The Oxford medieval historian, J.M. Wallace-Hadrill dismissed him as a 'savage old saint' while Robert Schumann, one of the architects of the European Union, lauded him as a pioneer of European civilization and unity. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of him as being 'one of the Fathers of Europe'. In his day many regarded Columbanus as a saint, but others vilified him as a troublesome upstart who dared to speak out on Church affairs. Although a divisive figure, he is nonetheless one of the most enigmatic and fascinating figures from the early medieval 'Age of Saints'.
Alexander O'Hara, ed., Saint Columbanus - Selected Writings, (Dublin, 2015), 16.
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