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The Oghamzone – The Cathach

The Cathach Of St Columba

The Cathach of St. Columba is one of the oldest known Irish manuscripts (Dublin, Royal Irish Academy). The Cathach which means the “Battler” gets its name from literally being carried into battle. Its historic content however seems older than the manuscript itself – it having been dated to the early 7th century.

It is said to be a copy of a psalter made from a work by St. Finnian. Columba began his education in monastic life under St Finnian who lent him the psalter. Columba, an avid scribe, then copied it but when Finnian found out his work had been copied he was furious. The feud between the two men resulted in a number of things. The first recorded case of copyright infringement in history and the battle of Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (Cooldrevny) in 561 CE. On Finnian’s side over 3,000 men died.

Romantically it led to Columba leaving Ireland as a missionary and heading for Scotland. St.Columba died on the 9th June, 597 CE. The Cathach is written on vellum, the 58 folios are of a damaged and incomplete manuscript and contain the text of Psalms 30:10 to 105:13 in Latin (the Vulgate version). Rubrics – summaries of criteria for assessing a particular piece of student work – are written in Old Irish and appear above the text of the Psalms.

IMAGE: The Cathach Of St Columba – image credit: unknown


Fountain News DigitalThis article was originally published in:
Fountain News Digital – December 2011 (Issue 7)

We are re-publishing all articles from our past newsletter, Fountain News Digital, and you can view all completed newsletters here. There were nine issues published in total between 2010 and 2012.

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