The Cult of Kollumkilli in Medieval Scandinavia


  • Courtney Selvage University of Ulster


References to the veneration of Colum Cille in medieval Iceland and Norway use both versions of his name adapted to Old Norse conventions: Kolumba and Kollumkilli. Medieval primstaven refer to the saint distinctly as Kolbjørn med laksen ‘Kolbjørn with the salmon’. In the medieval Icelandic texts Landnámabók and Kjalnesinga saga, a presumed version of St Patrick presents Orlyg, a Norse settler wishing to migrate to Iceland, with several gifts intended to allow the successful foundation of a church dedicated to Colum Cille upon arrival. A church dedicated to the saint was also present in Bergen between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, indicating the presence of a cult in the area. Considering this evidence, this article discusses the way in which a cult dedicated to Colum Cille in medieval Scandinavia might be understood through medieval Norse sources, and especially the way in which they emphasise his eminence as an Irish saint.