Crimthann was in disgrace. He’d started a fight about copyright that killed three thousand men on an Irish battlefield. He was exiled from Ireland, promising to win as many souls for God as had died as a result of his actions.
Fortunately Crimthann was well-connected, and his cousin King Conall of Dal Riata gifted him an island off Mull to conduct his work. The island was called Iona, and became a radiant centre of Christian evangelism and learning. Crimthann became known as Colm Cille, the Dove of Peace. We know him better today as St Columba.
Columba’s adventures included travelling to the court of the Pictish King Bridei to gain permission to evangelise Pictland. According to legend he performed various miracles, saving a follower from a kelpie in the River Ness by making the sign of the cross, and throwing open the gates of Bridei’s citadel through the power of prayer alone. Bridei was impressed, and monks from Iona spread across Pictland.
They didn’t stop there: after Columba’s death, Ionans were invited to convert the Angles of Northumbria. The Book of Kells, one of the greatest artistic works of Dark Age Europe, was created at Iona. Until the Vikings devastated it, Iona was the most important church in what is now Scotland.
Crimthann’s mission of penance had been a success.