Burial crypt of St. Columban, Bobbio,
Why is the Patron Saint of Bikers important ?
He was one of those many known and unknown Irish missionaries who kept the faith alive in Western Europe during the time after the destruction of Rome, now known as The Dark Ages.
Irish missionaries were instrumental in the spread of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire during the 6th and 7th centuries.
Among them was Colm Cille (St Columba) of Gartan who, with twelve companions, founded Iona in the early 7th century
Columbanus (or Columban; but in Italian known as San Columbano) from 590 was active in the Frankish Empire, establishing monasteries throughout what is now France and Switzerland until his death at Bobbio in 615.
Other Hiberno-Scottish missionaries active at the time, predominantly in Swabia, were Wendelin, Kilian, Arbogast, Landelin, Trudpert, Fridolin, Pirmin (who founded Reichenau abbey), Gallus (who founded the Abbey now known as that of St. Gall), Korbinian, Emmeram and Rupert.
During the seventh century the disciples of Columbanus and other Irish and Scottish missionaries founded a long list of monasteries in what is now France, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland.
The best known are: St. Gall in Switzerland, Disibodenberg in the Rhine Palatinate, St. Paul's at Besançon, Lure and Cusance in the Diocese of Besançon, Beze in the Diocese of Langres, Remiremont Abbey and Moyenmoutier Abbey in the Diocese of Toul, Fosses-la-Ville in the Diocese of Liège, Mont-St-Michel at Peronne, Ebersmunster in Lower Alsace, St. Martin at Cologne.
It is to that great achievement in what is now known as the Dark Ages that Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to in his Discourse recently on the life of St Columbanus (or St. Columban) of Bobbio (542 -615)
The Pope said at his General Audience on Wednesday 11th June 2008:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Columbanus, one of the many Irish monks who contributed to the re-evangelization of Europe in the early Middle Ages.
Columbanus made his monastic profession in Bangor and was ordained a priest.
At the age of fifty, he left the monastery to begin missionary work in Europe, where entire regions had lapsed into paganism. Beginning in Brittany, Columbanus and his companions established monasteries at Annegray and Luxeuil. These became centres for the spread of the monastic and missionary ideals brought by the monks from their native Ireland.
Columbanus introduced to Europe the Irish penititential discipline, including private confession. His stern moral teachings led to conflict with the local Bishops and the Frankish court, resulting in the exile of the Irish monks, first to the Rhineland and then to Italy.
At Bobbio, where he established a great monastic centre, Columbanus worked for the conversion of the Arian Lombards and the restoration of unity with the Bishop of Rome.
It was there that he died, leaving behind not only the example of an austere monastic life, but also a corpus of writings which shaped the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and thus nourished the Christian roots of Europe."