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E06057: An excerpt from Cumméne the White's lost book on the miracles of *Columba (abbot of Iona, ob. 597, S02167), survives in some manuscripts of Adomnán's Life of Columba (E06056). Written in Latin at Iona, probably 637/69; copied by the priest Dorbbéne, c. 700.

online resource
posted on 2018-07-30, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Adomnán, Life of Columba ('A' tradition) 3.5

[...] Cummuneus albus in libro quem de uirtutibus sancti Columbae scripsit sic dixit, quod sanctus Columba de Aidano et de posteris eius de regno suo profetare coepit, dicens:

'Indubitanter crede O Aidane quoniam nullus aduersariorum tuorum tibi poterit resistere, donec prius fraudulentiam agas in me et in posteros meos. Propterea ergo tu filiis commenda, ut et ipsi filiis et nepotibus et posteris suis commendent, ne per consilia mala eorum sceptrum regni huius de manibus suis perdant. In quocumque enim tempore malum aduersum me aut aduersus cognatos meos qui sunt in Hibernia fecerint, flagillum quod causa tui ab angelo sustenui per manum dei super eos in magnum flagitium uertertur; et cor uirorum auferetur ab eis, et inimici eorum uehimenter super eos confortabuntur.'

Hoc autem uaticinium temporibus nostris completum est in bello Roth, Domnallo Brecco nepot Aidani sine causa uastante prouinciam Domnail nepotis Ainmuireg. Et a die illa usque hode adhuc in procliuo sunt ab extraneis: quod suspiria doloris pectori incutit.

'... Cumméne the White in the book which he wrote on the miraculous powers of St Columba gives this account of St Columba's prophecy about Áedán and his descendants and kingdom:

'Make no mistake, Áedán, but believe that, until you commit some act of treachery against me or my successors, none of your enemies will have the power to oppose you. For this reason you must give this warning to your sons, as they must pass it on to their grandsons and descendants, so that they do not follow evil counsels and so lose the sceptre of this kingdom from their hands. For whenever it may happen that they do wrong to me or to my kindred in Ireland, the scourge that I have suffered for your sake from the angel will be turned by the hand of God to deliver a heavy punishment for them. Men's hearts will be taken from them, and their enemies will draw strength mightily against them.'

This prophecy was fulfilled in our own time, at the battle of Mag Roth, when Áedán's grandson Domnall Brecc laid waste the territory of the saint's kinsman Domnall Ua Ainmirech. From that day to this the family of Âedán is held in subjection by strangers, a fact which brings sighs of sorrow to the breast.'

Text: Anderson and Anderson 1991, 188-190. Translation: Sharpe 1995, 209.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Columba, abbot of Iona (north-west Britain), ob. 597 : S02167

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Iona St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Punishing miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family


This passage appears at the end of book 3, chapter 5 in the earliest (c. 700) manuscript of Adomnán's Life of Columba, and other, later manuscripts from this 'A' tradition, although it is missing from the 'B' class of manuscripts which circulated in England and Scotland (see source discussion, E06056). In the earliest manuscript, the scribe Dorbbéne (who identifies himself in the colophon) has distinguished this passage from the main body of the Life by copying it in a noticeably smaller hand: 'it is not possible to know whether Adomnán intended its inclusion, or whether it was an unauthorized addition by Dorbbéne' (Sharpe, 1995, 357). Cumméne was abbot of Iona from 657-669, but his writings on Columba could well predate his abbacy, and it has been argued that this text may date to as early as 637/653 (ibid., 358). This excerpt is all that survives of his work.


This excerpt provides us with a unique glimpse of the kinds of written sources Adomnán must have had at hand at Iona when composing his Life. It is unclear as to why Adomnán appears to have omitted this prophecy from his own work, although the political sensitivity of the passage may account for much, particularly since Áedán's successors (the kings of Dál Riata) were no longer 'held in subjection by strangers' by the time of the author's abbacy (for full discussion, see Sharpe, 1995, 357-9).


Edition: Anderson, A.O., and Anderson, M.O., Adomnán’s Life of Columba, revised edition (Oxford, 1991). Translation, introduction and commentary: Sharpe, R., Admonán of Iona, Life of Columba (London, 1995). Further reading: Ní Dhonnchadha, Máirín, ‘Adomnán [St Adomnán], (627/8?-704),’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), Sharpe, R., Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives: An Introduction to the Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford, 1991).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity