Northern Ireland news

Music, art and literature to mark Columba anniversary

A statue of St Columba stands in the grounds of St Columb's college in Derry.
Seamus McKinney

Seven new works of art, literature and music have been commissioned to mark the 1,500th anniversary of St Columba.

From Garten in Co Donegal, Columba – or Colmcille – was one of the most influential figures in Ireland and Scotland in the sixth century. The patron saint of Derry, Columba is credited with spreading Christianity throughout Scotland after founding a monastery on the island of Iona. His followers were key figures in the spread of Christianity to other areas of Europe.

The new art works have been commissioned by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and are being funded by the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs. Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney said the saint's legacy was a “foundational bond” between Ireland and Scotland.

“These commissions, on the occasion of his 1,500th anniversary, will create contemporary reflections on his significant international legacy which continues in diverse fields, wither artistic, linguistic, ecclesiastical or legal, as well as those of our shared communities,” Mr Coveney said.

President of the RIA, Mary Canning hoped the commissions would foster greater collaboration between Ireland and Scotland, in particular in the Irish language and Scottish Gaelic communities.

The commission will include artwork by calligrapher, Timothy O'Neill and glass art by Róisín de Buitléar. Musicians, Julie Fowlis, ÉAMON Doorley, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre will compose a new song inspired by the saint's life.

Poets, Biddy Jenkinson, Sandy Nic Dhomhnaill Jones and Simon Ó Faoláin will contribute separate pieces reflecting Columba's life and legacy while Irish language writer, Proinsias Mac a' Bhaird will produce a novel based on Columba's youth.

It is hoped to have all of the works completed in time for Columba's feast day on June 9.

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