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Letterkenny Accommodation - St Colmcille Heritage Centre, Gartan

Telephone: 074 913 7021

The Colmcille Heritage Centre is one of the leading tourist attractions in the Letterkenny area. The Heritage Centre is situated on the shores of Lough Gartan near Churchill. It is devoted to the life, work and times of St. Columba the Elder who is also known as St Colmcille. St. Columba is one of the foremost Irish saints and his feast day is June 9th

St. Colmcille was born nearly a half century after St. Patrick and performed many feats of outstanding importance to the history of the Church. Born in the small village of Gartan in 521 AD, he was descended from royal blood, and  - by the social standards of the time - was ranked as high as the King of Ireland. His nobility would prove an important factor later in his life for laying the foundations of his churches.

As a boy, Colmcille was sent to live with the priest who had baptized him. Later, he moved to live and study with the Christian poet Gemman, and it was at this time that the young man's love of discipline, poetry, and knowledge flourished. King Diarmiad came into power a few years later. He was an enemy to Colmcille's father and hence to him. Soon, Colmcille's cousin offered him a site of a royal fort on the banks of the River Foyle , and in 546, the first Columban monastery (Doire Cholmcille, the oak grove of Colmcille) was founded.

Colmcille, in his day, caused much controversy (and even a bloody war) because he copied, without permission, a Book of Psalms. Copying the illuminated manuscript entailed hours of tedious labour in the freezing temperatures with little light. These manuscripts proved especially difficult because of the richly colourful intricate designs. But Colmcille was so taken with the book that he laboured for well over a year in the most extreme conditions to make his own copy

The Heritage Centre, overlooking Gartan Lake (three huge stones rising from it are called Colmcille's footsteps) depicts the life of early Celts, Patrick, and Colmcille through a series of illustrated graphic posters. Details of the history and life of Colmcille are highlighted in well written audio visual presentation, and throughout the Centre are replicas of artefacts uncovered near sites where Colmcille lived and worked, the most striking a 12 feet high Celtic Cross that dominates the first floor display room. .

On display in the back room are several white oyster shells, each with a different coloured powder and each with a description of where and how colours for use in illuminated manuscripts were obtained.

Colmcille was eventually convicted of the first copyright infringement with this ruling: "To each cow its calf, to each book its owner." The ruling, in effect, exiled Columcille to Scotland where he lived, thrived, and created many monasteries.

The last display of the Centre is a wax-figure likeness of Colmcille as he might have looked. He has a Celtic tonsure (specific way of shaving head), wears a linen sheath, a woollen cloak, and leather shoes, all representative wear of the time.

Colmcille's story is told through a series of banners, stained glass panels, illustrations, and displayed artefacts. A visit will prove interesting, informative, and definitely worth the scenic drive around beautiful Lough Gartan .

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