It is speculated by various scholars that Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe was of Lyonnaise or Burgundian petty nobility; and also the selfsame 'Jean de Sainte-Colombe' noted as the father of 'Monsieur de Saint Colombe le fils'. This assumption was erroneous as proved by subsequent research taken on by Jonathan Dunford in Paris. In fact he was probably from the Pau area in southernmost France and Protestant; his first name was "Jean". His two daughters were named Brigide and Francoise.
Sainte-Colombe was vastly celebrated as a veritable master of the viola da gamba, for he did not merely master the instrument, but also improved upon it: he is acclaimed as having added the seventh string (AA) on the bass viol.
In accordance with the celebrated aloofness of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, he is claimed to have performed only occasional concerts and exclusively at his home, in consort with his two daughters, whom he had trained. Aside from them, Sainte-Colombe's students included the Sieur de Danoville, Jean Desfontaines, Pierre Méliton, Jean Rousseau, and, most notably, Marin Marais, who wrote Tombeau pour Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe in 1701 as homage to his instructor.
Amongst the extant works of Sainte-Colombe are sixty-seven Concerts a deux violes esgales, and over 170 pieces for solo seven-string viol, making him the most prolific of French viol composers before Marin Marais.
In 1991, Pascal Quignard wrote a book inspired by the life of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe entitled Tous les matins du monde (All the World's Mornings). Alain Corneau directed a film on it, with Jean-Pierre Marielle as Sainte-Colombe, Guillaume Depardieu as the young and Gérard Depardieu as the aged Marin Marais.