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There are about 300 saints of this name mentioned in Irish martyrologies: for the purposes of this work it seems sufficient to mention four, those of Cloyne, Dromore, Kilmacduagh, and Lindisfarne.

(1) Colman of Cloyne (c.530–606), bishop. Born in Munster, he became a poet and royal bard at Cashel and was about fifty years old when he became a Christian, supposedly as a consequence of Brendan discovering the bones of Ailbe at Cashel. After being ordained priest and consecrated bishop he worked in Limerick and Cork, where he built the first church at Cloyne and another at Kilmaclenine. In both places are the remains of churches; at Cloyne there was also a holy well. Feast: 24 November.B.L.S., xi. 197–8; The Irish Saints, pp. 84–5.

(2) Colman of Dromore, bishop of the 6th century. Born in Ulster, he spent much of his working life in Co. Down and was founder of the monastery at Dromore where he was also bishop. There he is reputed to have taught Finnian of Moville. He was venerated in both Scotland and Ireland from early times on 7 June: the Scottish cult being possibly due to his disciples or to another tradition of his birth, viz. in Dalriada (Argyllshire). The churches of Llangolman and Capel Colman in Dyfed are also sometimes attributed to him, but whereas the date of the feast in Scotland and Ireland is constant, that of the founder of these Welsh churches is 20 November.B.L.S., vi. 59–60; Baring-Gould and Fisher, ii. 162–4. AA.SS. Iun. II (1698), 25–9.

(3) Colman of Kilmacduagh (d. c.632), bishop. Born at Corker in Kiltartan in the mid 6th century, he became a monk at Aranmore and later lived at Burren (Co. Clare) where, having been unwillingly consecrated bishop, he lived with only one disciple on a diet of vegetables and water. He later founded a monastery at Kilmacduagh on land given him by King Guaire of Connaught and was venerated as its first bishop. Like other monastic saints he was reputed to have a special affinity with animals: a cock used to wake him before the night-office, a mouse prevented him from going to sleep after it, and a fly kept the place in his book. Part of his crozier is in the National Museum, Dublin. Feast: 29 October.AA.SS. Oct. XII (1867), 880–92.

(4) Colman of Lindisfarne (d. 676), bishop 661–4. A monk of Iona and Irish by race, Colman was the successor of Aidan and Finan as bishop-abbot of Lindisfarne. This was the most important monastery in Northumbria, sited close to the royal castle of Bamburgh, and the home of a number of monks who evangelized other English kingdoms. But a crisis arose concerning the date of Easter, the style of tonsure, and eventually the role of the bishop, between the Irish, led by Colman, and those of Roman formation, led by Ronan, Agilbert, and Wilfrid. This was resolved at the Synod of Whitby (663/4), convened and presided over by Oswiu, king of Northumbria, who favoured the Irish view, and in which various ecclesiastics from elsewhere in England took part. Colman was the main spokesman for the Irish side, for an ancient but insular tradition, while Wilfrid spoke for the practice of Rome and Western Europe. Neither side could prove their claims historically, but the appeal to the practice of the rest of the known contemporary Church was decisive. The king ruled in favour of the Roman calculation of Easter, thereby bringing about unity of observance in Northumbria and eventually in all England. Colman resigned and went back to Iona with all the Irish and about thirty English monks from Lindisfarne, taking with him some of the bones of Aidan. They then migrated to Ireland where Colman founded a monastery on the isle of Inishbofin (Co. Galway) c.667. Even here, however, there was discord because the Irish monks, according to Bede, left the monastery in the summer when the harvest had to be gathered in, but returned in the winter expecting an equal share with the English monks who had provided it. Colman tried to solve this dispute and eventually settled the English monks at Mayo, while the Irish remained at Inishbofin. ‘Mayo of the Saxons’, as it was called, flourished greatly, was praised by Bede for living under a Rule and an abbot canonically elected (i.e. it was not a Celtic ‘hereditary’ monastery), and in frugality through living by the labour of their own hands. Alcuin also praised them for leaving their homeland in voluntary exile, where they shone by their learning among a ‘very barbarous nation’, and exhorted them to regard their bishop as their father. The date of Colman's death is variously given by chronicles as 672, 674, and 675. Feast: 18 February; but in some parts of Ireland on 8 August.AA.SS. Feb. III (1658), 82–8; Bede, H.E., iii. 25–6; iv. 4; P. Grosjean, ‘Débuts de la controverse pascale chez les Celtes’, Anal. Boll., lxiv (1946), 200–44; P. Grosjean, ‘La date du Colloque de Whitby’, Anal. Boll., lxxviii (1960), 233–55; H. Mayr-Harting, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (1972), pp. 94–116.


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