Colmán (d. 604?) son of Léiníne, saint and poet, is patron of the church of Cloyne, east Co. Cork, which first attained more than local importance at the synod of Kells–Mellifont (1152), when it became the seat of a bishopric. Prior to this it is scarcely noticed in the annals, three abbots only being recorded for the period before 1000, all of them belonging in the ninth century. Yet Cloyne has the distinction of having as patron Colmán, who – unusually for Irish saints – has left behind his own writings in the form of twenty lines of verse. Both their editor, Rudolf Thurneysen (qv), and their most recent commentator, James Carney (qv), believe these to have been genuinely composed by Colmán. The verse, which exemplifies nua-chrotha, ‘new metrical forms’, is not only religious but also, curiously for a cleric connected with a southern monastery, concerned with kings of Tara. The verse has been dated to 565–604, and would thus mark the beginning of written literature in the vernacular.
As a noted athláech – one who abandoned a professional career for a life in religion, allegedly under the influence of Brendan (qv) of Clonfert – Colmán belonged to a group thought to have been instrumental in bringing writing to bear on orally transmitted native lore. His father's name is given as Léiníne, and he is said to have had seven sisters. If identical with Colmán Uamach, ‘Colmán of the Cave’, as seems likely, then he is also among those said to have brought together, in writing, the miracles of St Patrick (qv). Despite the importance of his church as a diocesan see, Colmán never became the subject of a Life. However, he figures in other Lives such as those of Brendan of Clonfert and, in one redaction only, Findbarr (qv) of Cork (Ó Riain, Beatha Bharra, 115, 148). Both of these postdate the elevation of Cloyne to cathedral status, an event that receives positive mention in the former Life (Plummer, i, 102). In the latter Life, in line with the tendency of every redaction of the text to relegate churches of the diocese of Cloyne to dependent status, Colmán's church is presented as ‘subject under the law’ to Cork. There is much about Colmán's career that remains puzzling, not least his involvement with kings of Tara. His feast-day falls on 24 November.