Columbanus vs. Drogo

In today's Saintly Smackdown matchup we have Columbanus vs. Drogo. 6th century Irish monk and missionary against a 12th century Flemish saint. Patron saint of motorcyclists vs. patron saint of coffee (not that these two things are mutually exclusive).

Yesterday, Theodore James Holly defeated Lydia 63% to 37%. He'll face Kateri Tekakwitha in the Saintly Sixteen.

But on to today's vote!


If you want to know about Saint Columbanus, there is no better source than the Sister Fidelma mysteries of ancient Ireland. But since the novels’ author, Peter Tremayne, isn’t a Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger, you’ll have to settle for this far-less suspenseful biography.

Saint Columbanus was born in Ireland in 540 CE and was well educated in grammar, rhetoric, and the scriptures. He wrote a commentary on the psalms and settled in at Bangor Abbey until the age of forty when he was given permission to travel to the European continent. He took twelve monastic brothers with him on his journey.

The life of Columbanus is that of an iconic missionary in early medieval Europe. He and his brothers were welcomed by various French rulers and given Roman ruins and castles to convert into monasteries. His task was to further the Christianization of Europe and uphold his vision of holy life. Each religious community he founded remained under his guidance and authority, and they followed a monastic rule of life similar to the Irish rule he’d taken as a young man.

Over his twenty years in Gaul, Columbanus became embroiled in various conflicts, from debate about the date of Easter to disputes with the royal family. At one point, he was kidnapped but escaped and fled to the Alps. Several times, he tried to flee by boat, but storms kept him landlocked. In the Alps, he found Christians who also prayed to local deities, and he preached to them, turning them from the practice. Columbanus traveled to Italy and preached against the teachings he considered heretical. In Italy, King Agilulf of the Lombards gave Columbanus isolated land called Bobbio, located south of Milan, and he built the Bobbio Abbey there.

While Columbanus spent much of his life founding monasteries on the European continent, he maintained his Irish identity. Historian Alexander O’Hara points to his importance in Ireland, with Columbanus being “the first Irish person that we have a body of literary work from.”

While the Benedictines celebrate Columbanus’s feast day on November 21, the wider church remembers him on November 23. Perhaps because of his many travels by land instead of by sea, he is the patron saint of motorcyclists.

Collect for Columbanus

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Columbanus to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Amber Belldene


Until the age of online listicles, the powerful witness of Saint Drogo had been largely overlooked. But thanks to hipster baristas and coffee fiends everywhere, he has been brought back to the forefront of popular culture.

Like many other faithful disciples, Drogo was born into a family of means. However, even before his birth at the beginning of the twelfth century, his path shifted away from the life of ease. Before he was born, his father died. The second blow came soon after, when his mother died in childbirth. With two strikes against him, Drogo came into the world as an orphan, given to the care of family members. At 10 years old, he suffered another blow: Drogo discovered that his mother’s death was directly tied to his birth. A sensitive child, he held himself personally responsible for his mother’s death. As an adult, he renounced the inheritance he was entitled to from his parents and instead became a shepherd.

In the Flemish countryside, Drogo stood out among his peers due to his commitment to holy living. He was industrious and faithful, committed to both his work in the fields and worship of God. So committed, in fact, that he was known to do both at the same time. Locals described seeing Drogo in the fields praying while watching his flocks—at the same time he was also seen attending worship in the village. Perhaps bilocation, the ability to be in two places at once and accomplish twice as much in a day, led to Drogo being the patron saint of baristas and coffee shops.

Like many during this time, Drogo felt called to pilgrimage. And he was, again, an overachiever. He traveled to and from Rome a total of nine times over the course of nine years. At the end of those nine years, Drogo became ill. We don’t know what the illness was, but it caused a deformity in his body and appearance. That change in appearance brought another change in Drogo’s life. People are cruel, and Drogo was well-aware of the discomfort his new appearance caused in others. And, so, he took up the life of a hermit. Drogo lived the rest of his life in a solitary room attached to the local parish church. Drogo died on April 16, 1186, and was buried in the parish church in which he had spent the majority of his life. In addition to coffee, Drogo is the patron of people considered to be unattractive.

Collect for Drogo

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

David Hansen


Columbanus: Trebbia at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Drogo: Chatsam, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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149 comments on “Columbanus vs. Drogo”

  1. Columbanos to the land of Gaul went
    On some monastical building intent;
    But Gaul’s bishops said “Wait!
    We object to your date!”
    (Not his sweetheart, but the last day of Lent).

  2. My guess is Columbanos will get the most votes, so I voted for Drogo. Drogo had his struggles so he gets my support

    1. At first I thought being able to be in two places at one time would be nice. Then I realized people would then expect me to be at four places at once. No thanks 🙂

  3. Totally personal and unimportant comment: Had to look up the word "listicle". Well, David Hansen, I clicked on your link at the end of Drogo's biography, and was happy to see links to a listicle or two.

    1. Several people have chosen St Drogo for the coffee connection. I looked both up for further information, and there was a note that he really couldn't have had a coffee connection, coffee was first "invented" in Brazil several hundred years later where they figured out how to roast, grind and brew the beans! Just thought you might like to know!

      1. There was no World Wide Web when Isidore of Seville was alive, but now he’s the patron saint of the internet. So often these associations get attached later. I’m just glad my cuppa Joe has a holy protector.

    1. From what I've read the heresy was the time of Columbanus there was a dispute about how to mathematically calculate the date of Easter. Individuals who sided with the Irish belief that their calculations were mathematically more accurate than Romes were also accused of the middle ages adding an assertion of heretical belief was often used to discredit opponents in the dispute. Columbanus sided with Rome in this dispute.

  4. I had to vote for Drogo this morning. I mean, the patron saint of baristas and coffee shops versus the patron of motorcycles is no contest for me.

  5. I just noticed that in a previous version of the 2022 bracket Columbanus' name was spelled differently.

  6. As a woman whose mother's death was directly linked to my birth, I was moved to vote for Drogo. I relate to his sensitivity, and would love his ability to bilocate. Columbanus was a worthy man who had perhaps greater impact on his pilgrim's journey, but my vote goes to Drogo today in solidarity.

  7. I love the picture of Drago praying on the job. He prayed in all he did. His life was a prayer.

  8. I couldn't decide who to vote for, but love a place called Castle Drogo in England's West Country, so used that as the basis for my choice.

  9. It was the coffee that tipped the balance!
    I’m also glad that people deemed unattractive have their very own patron Saint.
    My vote went to Drogo.

  10. So far (although it's early yet), it's a close contest today. As a daughter of Nashotah House, I had to vote for St. Drogo. Our coffeehouse in my days there was named for him.

  11. Drogo has my vote. Multitasking. I keep striving to manage all the demands of work, play, and worship. If Drogo can endow me with bilocation , what an asset!

  12. Had to consider very carefully today.

    I chose Drogo because he was a human loner and always journeyed with God. So much to be speculate.

    May Drogo’s solace and comfort in his faith also be a comfort to the outcast in this age of beauty, the unattractive. I feel his example of communion with Jesus is a better way to go than the despair and self harm which has become normal these days for many.

  13. Haven't been able to vote at all ever! Maybe Lent Madness doesn't like my Chromebook? Learning a lot about obscure saints though!

  14. Columbanus preached to "Christians who prayed to local deities", and they abandoned that practice. Could we used Columbanus' spirit today as we encounter Christians who follow other deities (i.e. wealth, power, militarism)?

  15. I like Columbanus because he missionaried and then he missionaried more. I like that he founded monasteries so people could worship God.

  16. Have to vote for the patron saint of unattractive people. Bilocation for the win, also! It's Drogo for me.

  17. Patron saint BOTH of "people considered to be unattractive" and of coffee. Problem and cure, both at once.

  18. I voted for Drogo because he struggled throughout his life,and because Columbanus is also the name of the villainous monk in A Morbid Taste for Bones, the first of the wonderful Brother Cadfael mysteries!

    1. In a later book in the Cadfael series, The Hermit of Eyton Forest, Drogo Bosiet is a most unpleasant petty lord who is seeking his much-abused villein (essentially a slave) who has run away. Drogo meets a sticky end, with the villein Brand deemed the villain responsible.

      For more details, I heartily recommend reading the series, whose author Ellis Peters wove well-crafted mysteries around the 12th century English civil war between King Stephen and English Maud, herbal lore, the contrast (and conflict) between Norman and Welsh customs, laws and languages, and a deep sense of sprituality.

      Although the TV series, starring Sir Derek Jacobi (one of my favorite actors) is good, it lacks a lot of the books' detail and grace. Read, then watch is my recommendation. The books follow a chronological order, with the exception of A Rare Benedictine, which has three short stories set a different times in Cadfael's life.

    2. I'm reading the Brother Cadfael mysteries but didn't notice the name. Thanks for pointing it out.

      1. Last year Cadfel came up and the next thing I knew I had read the entire series. So fun! Already looking for the Sister mysteries mentioned today. Love zLent Madness.

  19. Another tough choice. Columba is my choice today because he had to struggle against weather and geography, against which we still have little control. He continued his ministry in spite of the challenges which both presented.

  20. My vote goes to Columbanus for his energy and industry, and his willingness to get involved in the conflicts of the world.

  21. Drogo, a shepherd vs. someone who became “embroiled” in a conflict over the date of Easter? I love shepherds and Drogo is my choice. It’s likely I will, again be on the losing side but I stand by my choices.

    1. I drank a cup of coffee once many years ago, to be polite, and haven't been that polite again. I brew single-estate tea leaves in a proper teapot. In spite of loving the smell of coffee but disliking the taste, I voted for Drogo. It must be hard to accept that your birth caused your mother's death. We live in a culture that worships physical beauty, and the youth that usually accompanies it, regardless of Botox and facelifts. So I voted for the patron saint of the outwardly unattractive. I expect he will lose, but I was glad to learn about him.