Northern Ireland news

People urged to light a candle to mark 1,500th anniversary of St Colmcille

Coinneal Cholmcille (St Columba's Candle) is projected onto the Colmcille heritage centre in Gartan, County Donegal to mark the 1,500th anniversary of the saint's birth in 521. Picture by Damien Stenson.
Seamus McKinney

PEOPLE in Derry and Donegal are being asked to light a candle at 5.21pm tomorrow to mark the 1,500th anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille.

A year-long programme of events to mark the influential saint’s birth in 521 culminates tomorrow, December 7,marking his actual birth date.

The chairman of Donegal County CouncilJack Murray will be joined by Derry and Strabane mayor Graham Warke along with church leaders at St Colmcille’s birthplace at Gartan in Donegal for a celebration of his birth.

A new statue of the saint, also known as Columba, will also be unveiled at nearby Kilmacrennan and church services will be held throughout the day.

These include Mass at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower led by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown.

Mass will also be broadcast on RTÉ News Now at 10.30am from St Colmcille’s Church, Glendowan in Gartan.

Other Masses will be celebrated at St Columba’s church, Massmount, Fanad, Donegal (7pm) while evensong will be celebrated at St Eunan’s Cathedral, Raphoe, led by Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell.

Colmcille 1500 project worker Deirdre Harte , who works for Donegal council, said celebrations will start with “Colmcille 1500: A journey Through Ireland and Scotland”, an online event following the saint’s life.

“We’re excited to deliver such a wide range of events to celebrate the 1,500th anniversary of this revered saint who has so many connections to the north west.

“Colmcille’s influence has spread around the world so it’s appropriate that we mark such a historic anniversary celebrating his life and work,” Ms Harte said.

A series of images will projected on sites linked to Colmcille in Ireland and Scotland.

“The images will be seen in many locations from Colmcille’s birthplace in Gartan to his final resting place in Iona in Scotland. Locally, people will be able to see them in Guildhall Square in Derry as well as at the Colmcille heritage centre and Colmcille’s Abbey in Gartan,” Ms Harte said.

People throughout the north west are being asked to light “Coinneal Cholmcille” (Columba’s Candle) at 5.21pm to reflect 521, the year of his birth.

“The Light of the Dove” (reflecting the saint’s name ‘the dove of the church’) will bring light installations, dance, poetry and music to the grounds of St Columba’s church, Long Tower tomorrow night.

Full details of all events are available at

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