Article: Saint Colman of Dromore

Newry Cathedral News

Feast day: 7th June

By Sabrinthia Hillen

Saint Colman is the founder of Dromore diocese and co-patron saint of Newry Cathedral. (The Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Colman.)

Born in the 6th century in Dalriada, just a generation after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, St. Colman was a man of deep faith and unwavering devotion to God. Interestingly, he was baptized by his own uncle, a bishop who shared his name.

Even as a young boy, St. Colman showed signs of exceptional spiritual gifts. He was educated at the monastery of Nendrum under St. Mochaoi (also known as Caolán), who was an early disciple of St. Patrick.

St. Mochaoi was so struck by St. Colman’s devotion and miraculous abilities that he sent him to learn as much as possible from other monasteries about the Holy Scripture. St. Colman traveled to the great school of St Ailbe at Emly (c470 or 475) in south Tipperary to improve his biblical knowledge before returning to Mahee Island once more to serve under his mentor, St. Mochaoi.

St. Colman, unsure of what step to take next, sought guidance from his close friend, St. Aengus Mac Nassi. St. Aengus, baptized by St. Patrick himself, listened intently to St. Colman’s aspirations and persuaded him to settle at Dromore. It is said he responded to St. Colman by saying, “It is God’s will that you establish a monastery on the Coba plain.”

So, St. Colman took his friend’s advice and established a humble thatched church on the northern bank of the River Lagan around 514 A.D. There, his monks lived a simple and disciplined life and St. Colman continued to spread the light of Christ far and wide across the diocese of Dromore.

He soon became a beloved teacher, known for his deep understanding of the sacred texts and his kind and caring nature. One of his many students was the future St. Finnian of Moville, who later went on to establish a monastery at Maigh Bhille (meaning “plain of the ancient tree”) on Strangford Lough.

Under St. Colman’s pious leadership, the abbey at Dromore flourished and rose to become an Episcopal See, which hints that St. Colman may have served as its first bishop (as well as Abbot of Dromore) toward the end of his life.

Although little is known about St. Colman’s passing, he likely died sometime in the middle of the sixth century. Tradition suggests he was buried on the grounds of his Dromore monastery.

Today, inside the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Dromore, an ancient stone with a cross engraving is preserved, known as “Saint Colman’s Pillow.” This stone was presented to the Cathedral in the early 20th century by Canon H.W. Lett. He reportedly saved it from being taken to the U.S.A. after tracing its history to Lisburn. Interestingly, it was previously known as the “Pope of Rome’s Stone!”

As we reflect on the extraordinary life of St. Colman, we cannot help but be inspired by his unwavering piety, spiritual discipline, and zeal for spreading the Gospel.

Though he lived centuries ago, his example speaks powerfully to us today and we are honoured to have St. Colman as the co-patron Saint of our Cathedral.

Saint Colman of Dromore depict din stained glass in Newry Cathedral.
St Colman depicted in stained glass at Newry Cathedral