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Remote to modern eyes, Iona was at the hub of early medieval sea lanes that brought pottery and perishable goods north from France and the Mediterranean. Still, Iona was intended as a true monastery, a place set apart for Columba and his brethren. Other island monasteries, such as one on Tiree, housed lay-folk serving out penances for their sins. Another island housed older, more experienced monks living as holy anchorites. Iona, however, trained priests and bishops, and Columba's reputation for scholarship was great when he died though we have little of his own work.

Columba and All That | Books from Scotland

From Iona, priests and monks ranged far and wide, founding churches in Scotland and seeking "deserts in the ocean" lonely, distant islands. Monk Columba's legends give us a flavour of both the fox and the dove. He is seen rapt in contemplation, seeing "with a mind miraculously enlarged.

Columba holds his own with kings. Though he prays for the military success of kings whom God has chosen, he argues with angels over their appointment. He faces down the king of Picts through his power, blasting him with loud psalms, throwing wide his strong oak doors, and besting the magic of the king's druids. He even defeats wild animals: a fierce boar drops dead on the spot, and a strange monster on Loch Ness runs from his power. Though Columba's power is often depicted in entertaining form, his influence was in fact the key to winning over the kings of Gaelic Scotland, and his legendary powers were famous enough for his monks later to convince the Picts to convert.

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After his death, Columba's political and military power became a key element in his cult. One particular appearance, decades after his death, to the English king of Northumbria was pivotal in the history of Christianity in Britain. That king was Oswald, who had been raised in exile in Iona. In , Oswald sent for missionaries from Iona to renew the flagging Christianity of Northumbria with their monastic sobriety and good works. Posthumous achievements Columba was a poet, scholar of wide-learning, monastic founder and leader, a visionary churchman.

At the time of his death on June 9, , he was already celebrated. Though more monk than missionary, Columba established churches in Scotland that went on, in time, to evangelize the Picts and the English.

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The legacy of the monasteries he founded, which drew constantly on the inspiration of their patron saint, multiplies many times the influence of the man himself. And the saints of other churches too will give it great reverence. Our Leadership Academy for Head Teachers enables them to shape educational change and transform the culture of their schools and learning communities.

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