Tradition has it that the Cathach of St. Columba is the copy of the psalter made by Colmcille. Written in Latin and dated to the late 6 th /early 7 th century, it is considered to be the oldest existing Irish manuscript. Following the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne, the book supposedly passed into the ownership of the O’Donnells, another family descending from Niall of the Nine Hostages, following the battle when Colmcille went into exile.

In the 11th century, a shrine, or cumdach, was created for the psalter which by this time was considered a “Cathach”, or “battle book”, as it was carried into battle as a holy relic to bring good fortune to the forces of the O’Donnells. Taken to France in 1691 following the defeat of the followers of James II, the manuscript was returned to Ireland in 1802 and later deposited in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it remains to the present day. (Read about its ‘re-discovery’ in the early 19th century: www.ria.ie/news/library-library-blog/pandoras-box-re-discovery-cathach-colum-cille.)

The cumdach is in the possession of the National Museum of Ireland and on public display.