Commemorating the 1500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Colmcille and his association with Sligo through the Battle of the Books

Welcome to Sligo Colmcille 2021

Saint Colmcille

The year 2021 marks the 1500th anniversary of the birth of the 6 th century Irish abbot and missionary Saint Colmcille (Columba), founder of the monastic community of Iona in present day Scotland. Said to have been born in Gartan, County Donegal, on 7 December 521CE (or 520CE according to recent research), Colmcille is recognised as one of Ireland’s three patron saints, along with Saints Patrick and Brigid. Most associated with Donegal, Derry, and Iona, his influence extended farther afield including to Sligo where he is attributed with the founding of Drumcliffe monastery in 575CE.

Video by Conor Doherty for Cos Cos Festival. View in Youtube

The Battle of the Book

The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (also known as the Battle of the Book) took place in the 6th century in Cooladrummon Co Sligo. Arising from a dispute between St Finian and St Colmcille about a copy of a book, the battle is notable for being the earliest conflict over copyright theft in the world.

The Battle of the Book Mural at Sligo Library by Bernard McDonagh. The work was commissioned by Sligo County Council with funds made available through the then newly established Arts Council of Ireland.  The commission was organised by Nora Niland who was County Librarian at the time. 

Sligo Colmcille 2021

The project originated from earlier collaborative projects undertaken between the Cos Cos Festival and the wider Drumcliffe/Rathcormac community which resulted in the Colmcille Pageant, a feature of the Sligo Fleadh opening and closing events. More recently, discussions between the community, specifically Drumcliffe Rathcormac Tidy Towns Committee and the festival organisers have focused on how best to commemorate this important anniversary in a way that emphasises the Sligo aspects of the Colmcille story, specifically the Battle of the Book which led to his exile to Iona and subsequent missionary activities.

Creative Communities

These initial conversations have since expanded to encompass approaches both to and from others engaged in cultural, creative, community, and heritage activities throughout the county interested in being involved in a Sligo-based Colmcille programme. The result of these conversations is the establishing of a small working committee that will over the course of the coming year work with communities, creatives, and others to explore, identify, and organise activities and events that will populate the year-long programme schedule