The impulse for mission in the British Isles came first with the great names of St Patrick (491), St Columba (597), St Aidan (651) and then not least with St Columbanus (615). But whereas the former evangelised in areas within the British Isles, St Columbanus and his twelve companions took the Gospel to the continent of Europe. They founded several monasteries not least Luxieul in France and Bobbio in Italy. The next generation went further into France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland and thetale of foundations is as long as it is impressive.
The Life of St Columbanus was written by the monk Jonas of Bobbio. He was trained at Bangor under St Comgall and set off on his travels when he was 40. They landed at St Malo in Brittany and were favourably received by the King of Burgundy. They soon founded monasteries in wild regions. However he soon got into trouble with the French bishops. On the continent it was the bishops not the Abbots who held the highest authority and the sticking points were the date of Easter and the monastic tonsure. He wrote three letters to the Pope in support of his case.
He also came into conflict with the French Royal family. He was banished and ordered to return to Ireland. The boat refused to comply in face of a great storm. St Columbanus escaped. He made his way to Italy via Bregenz on Lake Constance. He arrived at Milan and began restoring the Lombards to Nicene Orthodoxy.