Deep within the archives of the Royal Irish Academy lies a Catholic treasure from the past—the Cathach of St. Columba.

This ancient Psalter, attributed to St. Columba, dates back to the late 6th century and is the oldest surviving manuscript in Ireland. Pious legend tells of Columba miraculously copying the Psalms in one night, illuminated by Divine Light, giving the manuscript a sacred origin!

The Cathach, also known as “The Battler,” is encased in a beautifully crafted cumdach, or book shrine. Used as a relic by monks and holy men, it was believed to provide divine protection and even carried into battles to ensure victory!

The cumdach itself, adorned with intricate bronze and silver plates, has underwent multiple refurbishments over the centuries, a reflection of its revered status. Despite its historical journey and periods of neglect, the Cathach has survived, albeit in fragile condition.

Originally containing around 110 vellum leaves, only 58 remain today. Each page is adorned with elaborate initials, a hallmark for the artistic prowess of the scribe’s skills. This manuscript not only shows the piety of early Irish Catholics but also is also a remarkable artifact of medieval history.

Saint Columba, pray for us!


Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons | Sailko via Wikimedia Commons
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