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Columbanus and the Peoples of Post-Roman Europe$
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Alexander O'Hara

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190857967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190857967.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 03 December 2021

Columbanus and Shunning

Columbanus and Shunning

The Irish peregrinus between Gildas, Gaul, and Gregory

Chapter:
(p.113) 7 Columbanus and Shunning
Source:
Columbanus and the Peoples of Post-Roman Europe
Author(s):

Alexander O'Hara

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190857967.003.0007

Although it is easy to read our patchy evidence about Columbanus as depicting a lone Irish figure with his deviant Easter tradition battling against a continental ecclesiastical hierarchy comprising bishops and the pope, this paper’s close reading and contextualization of the evidence provides a more nuanced picture. It reveals extensive common ground between the high Christian standards of both Columbanus and Gregory the Great, over against the laxity of the Gallic episcopate, and then focuses on the issue of “shunning,” or withholding oneself from relations with Christians one perceives as sinful, although they have not been excommunicated. A second section examines the Insular background to this, focusing on Gildas’s writings. Finally the third section turns to Columbanus’s dealings with the Merovingians, using the Insular tradition of shunning as a way of re-reading Jonas’s account of how relations between Columbanus and the royal court soured, ending in his exile. Encounters between Columbanus and those with whom he came into contact on the continent have been characterized as confrontation and controversy, reflecting one important aspect of his relations with leading figures. This perception of Columbanus arises from the patchy nature of historical sources. This chapter interrogates the few available sources and tries to place them in context and understand the issues surrounding them. First it investigates his relationship with Gregory the Great, raising the issue of “shunning,” or withholding oneself from relations with Christians one perceives as sinful, although they have not been excommunicated. Then it turns to Columbanus’s dealings with the Merovingians leading up to his exile, using the awareness of shunning as a way of re-reading Jonas’s account of how relations between Columbanus and the royal court soured, ending in his exile.

Keywords:   Columbanus, Gregory the Great, Gildas, Merovingians, shunning, Gallic episcopate

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