St Columb (St Columba, St Colmcille ) was born c 522 AD at Gartan, Co Donegal, came to Derry in 546 AD and founded a monastery in the area on the side of the hill of Derry where St Augustine’s Church now stands. St Columb had been a student of St Mobhi at Glasnevin, Dublin and he came back to Daire Calgach (the ancient Irish name for the area) when his cousin offered him land to build a church. At the time the area was covered with oak trees from which Derry gets its name i.e. Doire, the grove of the oaks. After he left Derry in 563 AD for the Scottish island of Iona he only returned to Ireland once in 575 AD to attend the Convention of Drumceatt which was held near Limavady, about 15 miles (24Km) from Derry. Tradition is that he died on 9th June, 597 AD and that day is still celebrated in the City of Londonderry. Over the centuries the site was raided many times and some recorded dates are:
1059 AD – " the old abbey erected in 546 AD, consumed by fire"
1136 AD – " the Abbey and all the town consumed by fire "
1397 AD – The records of the pastoral visit of Archbishop Colton show that he was lodged with the Augustinian Canons (the monastery had been taken over by the Augustinian Order on the decline of the Columban Order). They also give an insight into the daily running of the monastery.Little more is known until 1600. Queen Elizabeth I sent an army under the control of Sir Henry Docwra to settle Derry in May of 1600. A map made seven months later in December 1600 gives a good idea of the layout of the old settlement around which Docwra founded a new city. Sir Henry Docwra records in his narration that a hospital and lodgings were made amongst the ruins of the old abbey and he and his people used the old church for worship.By 1633 the new cathedral church had been built and the congregation moved from " The Wee church " and it is believed that it was then used by the Presbyterian people during the great seige of 1689. During the seige many buildings were damaged by cannon balls and mortar shells. One such shell landed in the graveyard of the church raising five corpses, one of which was blown over the City wall. It is recorded that they were reinterred by gentlemen of the City.The old building survived until the 1760’s when the then Bishop of Derry, Doctor William Barnard had it rebuilt. At this time it appears that the title " Chapel of Ease " came into use.Bishop Barnard’s church continued in use until 1871, when it was deemed to be unsafe and with the consent of the congregation and the Chaplain, the Rev Thomas Lucas Scott, it was rebuilt in its present form.The new church was consecrated on 11th June 1872 by Bishop Alexander as St Augustine’s Church and is still in regular use.
FEATURED IN THE ADDICTED PHOTOGRAPHER JUNE 2012