The Route to Bobbio


Columban, one of the most influential personalities of his time, defined “The first true Saint of Europe”, was born in 540 in Leinster, Ireland. In 591 he sailed with twelve disciples from Bangor, near Belfast, and for over thirty years he traveled across Europe founding communities and monasteries in territories that, today, are modern European states: Ireland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. The itinerary traced in Italy gives the opportunity to retrace the steps of the Irish abbot who crossed the Alps in 612, arriving in Milan at the court of the Lombard rulers, Agilulfo and Teodolinda, who, after two years of stay in the capital, they directed towards the locality of Bobbio, located at the northern end of the Apennines.

Here, Columban, now old, founded his last monastery in 614 which soon became an important center of spirituality in an era of violence, devastation, heresies and turbulence, and will remain for centuries the most influential institution even from a point of cultural view throughout northern Italy and beyond.

Columban died in 615. His body rests in the crypt of the Abbey, a destination every year for centuries of pilgrimages. The process of integration of the European peoples which began in the Middle Ages owes a fundamental role to the work of the monks and to Irish monasticism. This process generated a new cultural structure, within which the ethnic contrasts smoothed out without the differences being canceled, outlining the development of the European identity that bears the common values that still characterize it today: human rights, dialogue, exchange and enrichment cultural.

Columban contributed to the construction of modern Europe and retracing his path means paying homage to this great man whose memory is still alive after 14 centuries

The Columban Way connects the places touched by the Irish monk during his “peregrinatio pro Christo” and largely cited in the “Vita Columbani” of Giona di Susa, who wrote the biography with direct evidence collected by the monks who they had shared life with him in the various monasteries he founded. Alongside these localities, other cities or towns have been identified where tradition recalls this extraordinary figure in the names of parish churches, shrines, chapels, shrines and churches dedicated to the Irish Saint.

The Way of San Colombano is still today, after 14 centuries, an animated and lived itinerary. The Colombanian movement has not only rediscovered it, but is making a contribution to the construction of the common European home engaged in a difficult process of unification. 

On this premise, the European Association of Columban Way was born in 2014 with the aim of creating a new European Cultural Itinerary in addition to the objective of obtaining such recognition from the Council of Europe.

It is possible to walk the Columban Way with the spirit of the pilgrim for the last stretch of km 136 from Milan (Basilic of  Saint Eustorgio) to Bobbio (Basilic of Saint Columban) for no. 8 legs. The pilgrim will be able to have his credential stamped at each stage of the itinerary and, once he reaches the tomb of the Saint, receive the Testimonium, the certification of the pilgrimage.

Saint Columban did not spend much time inside the monastery; in fact he used to retire in prayer in isolated places, real hermitages, often difficult to reach. Near Coli, in the Curiasca valley, a few km from Bobbio, the Saint had chosen a rocky ravine, later called the spelonca di San Michele or Spelonca of Coli. According to tradition, it was here that the saint died on 23 November 615 at the age of 75.