The Rule of Columba

Saint Columba

The Rule of Columba



Be alone in a separate place near a chief city, if thy conscience is not prepared to be in common with the crowd.


Be always naked in imitation of Christ and the Evangelists.


Whatsoever little or much thou possess of anything, whether food or drink or clothing, let it be at the command of the senior and at his disposal, for it is not befitting a religious to have any distinction of property with his own free brother.


Let a fast place with one door enclose thee.


A few religious men to converse with thee of God and his Testament, to visit thee on days of solemnity to strengthen thee in the Testaments of God and the narratives of the Scriptures.


A person who would talk with thee in idle words, or who murmurs at what he cannot or of the world, remedy or prevent, but who would distress thee more, should be a tattler between friends and foes, thou shalt not admit him to thee, but at once give him thy benediction, should he deserve it.


Let thy servant be a discreet religious, not tale bearing man, who is ready to attend continually on thee, with moderate labour of course, but always ready.


Yield submission to every rule that is of devotion.


A mind prepared for red martyrdom


A mind fortified and steadfast for white martyrdom


Forgiveness from the heart for everyone


Constant prayers for those who trouble thee


Fervour in singing the office for the dead, as if every faithful dead was a particular friend of thine


Hymns for souls to be sung standing


Let thy vigils be constant from eve to eve, under another’s direction.


Three labours in the day – prayers, work and reading.


Thy work to be divided into three parts, thine own work and the work of thy place as regards its real wants: secondly thy share of the brethren’s work: lastly, to help the neighbours by instruction or writing or sewing garments or whatever labour they may be in want of, ut Dominus ait, “Non apparebis ante me vacuus.”


Everything in its proper order: Nemo enim coronabitur nisi qui legitime certaverit.


Follow almsgiving before all things.


Take not of food until thou art hungry.


Sleep not till thou feels desire.


Speak not except on business.

Every increase which comes to thee in lawful meals, or in wearing apparel, give it for pity to the brethren that want it, or to the poor in like manner.


The love of God with all thy heart and with all thy strength


The love of thy neighbour as thyself


Abide in the Testaments of God throughout all times.


Thy measure of prayer shall be until thy tears come

Or thy measure of work of labour till thy tears come

Or thy measure of thy work of labour, or of thy genuflections until thy perspiration come often, if thy tears are not free.



Translated by Dr Reeves



Delightful would it be to me to be in Uchd Alliun*

On the pinnacle of a rock,

That I might often see

The face of the ocean;

That I might see its heaving waves

Over the wide ocean,

When they chant music to their Father

Upon the world’s course;

That I might see its level of sparkling strand,

It would be no cause of sorrow;

That I might hear the roar by the side of the church

Of the surrounding sea;

That I might see its noble flocks

Over the watery ocean;

That I might see the sea-monsters,

The greatest of all wonders;

That I might see its ebb and flood

In their career;

That my musical name might be, I say,

Cul ri Erin;†

That contrition might come upon my heart

Upon looking at her;

That I might bewail my evils all,

Though it were difficult to compute them;

That I might bless the Lord

Who conserves all,

Heaven with its countless bright orders,

Land, strand and flood;

That I might search the books all,

That would be good for my soul;

At times kneeling to beloved Heaven;

At times psalm singing;

At times contemplating the King of Heaven,

Holy the Chief;

At times at work without compulsion,

That would be delightful.

At times plucking duilisc from the rocks;

At times fishing;

At times giving food to the poor;

At times in a solitary cell


*An Irish headland.     †”He who turned his back onIreland.”



Attributed to Columba

Translated by Eugene O’Curry

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