Northern Ireland news

Vigil marks year-long commemoration of birth of St Columba

New branding has been developed for the year of commemoration events.
Seamus McKinney

A year-long programme of events to commemorate the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of Columba, the patron saint of Derry, starts this weekend with an overnight vigil his honour.

From Garton in Co Donegal, Columba was born into a ruling family, with his birth date said to be December 7 521. The saint is credited with founding the settlement of Derry although it was a centre of population before that. It was St Columba who gave the region its name “Doire Cholmcille”, meaning Colmcille's oak grove.

St Columba's links with Derry and the north west are evident in a range of place names, landmarks, churches and schools. While now a dying tradition, it was also once common in Derry to pin an oak leaf to a lapel (similar to the shamrock) on St Columba's Day, June 9.

The year-long programme of commemoration events starts tomorrow with an overnight vigil at the Iosas Centre near Muff on the Derry-Donegal border. A spokesman for the centre – which is operated by the Columba Community – said an all-night vigil would be held in St Canice's Oratory in the centre's Celtic Prayer Garden.

“The vigil will begin at midnight on Sunday December 6 and continue until 6am the next morning. We will pray through the intercession of St Columba for health and healing in our land," the spokesman said.

He added that government guidelines would be observed and that pilgrims, who could book their place at the centre, were welcome.

Commemoration events will continue on Monday with the digital launch of a micro-documentary “Columba@1500” by The Churches Trust. Other events over the next year, including conservation work at a number of Columban heritage sites, public art works and an academic conference at Ulster University.

A new branding logo – depicting Columba as “the dove of the church” - has also been produced.

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