Sunday, October 19, 2008

Francis and the Celtic Connection

When Fancis of Assisi came on the scene in 1200 he embraced a style of Christianity with an emphasis on creation, care of the poor, the place of women in monastic communites that seamingly came out of nowhere.

In 613 Columbanus a Celtic missionary monk responsible for planting over 50 monastic communites throughout Eruope arrives in Milan. The King of Lombardy offers Columbanus a site seventy miles south to establsh a community. The location is where the Bobbio stream flows into the Trebbia. Columbanus gladly accepts. In 614 before the winter sets in, a new Irish monastery called Bobbio takes shape in the foothills of the Apennines. It is to be the last of Columbanus' foundations and his final resting place.

When Columbanus died, every branch of knowledge known in his day was represented in the library he established at Bibbio. The school of Bobbio became the intellectual center of northern Italy. His memory was so stamped upon the history of the region that the Roman Church sainted him despite it's opposition while he was alive.

Bibbio is 167 km from Assisi.

The similarities between Francis's vision of monastic life and the values of the Celtic monastics has not been lost on some historians. It is very possible Francis was wittingly or unwittingly influenced by the substantial mark left by Columbanus and his foundation some 600 years earlier in the area.

photo: the tomb of Columbanus in the Basilica of San Columbano in Bibbio


Pat said...

Brad, great story. I've been looking for more historical references to this possiblity (likelihood). Francis' theology of nature sure feels Celtic to me, and I think you're right that Columbanus is the link.

Brad Culver said...

This whole thing deeply fascinates me. I would love to dig more. The influence of Columbanus on the region is realy quite substantial.