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E06058: Adomnán, in his Life of *Columba (abbot of Iona, ob. 597, S02167), reports how *Mochta (disciple of Patrick in Ireland, ob. 535, S02204) had prophesied Columba's birth. Written in Latin at Iona, 696/704.

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posted on 2018-07-30, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Adomnán, Life of Columba (BHL 1886)

For an overview of this work, see E06056.

In nomine Iesu Christi secunda praefatio

... sed etiam praemisis multorum cyclis annorum ante suae natiuitatis diem cuidam Christi militi spiritu reuelante sancto quasi filius repromisionis mirabili profetatione nominatus est. Nam quidam proselytus brito homo sanctus sancti Patricii episcopi discipulus Maucteus nomine ita de nostro profetizauit patrono sicuti nobis ab antiquis traditum expertis conpertum habetur.

'In nouissimis' ait 'saeculi temporibus filius nasciturus est cuius nomen Columba per omnes insularum ociani prouincias deuulgabitur notum, nouissimaque orbis tempora clare inlustrabit. Mei et isius duorum monasteriolorum agelluli unius sepisculae interuallo disterminabitur. Homo ualde deo carus et grandis coram ipso meriti ...

'In Jesus Christ's name the second preface

'... Earlier still, many years before the time of his birth, by revelation of the Holy Spirit to a soldier of Christ, he was marked out as a son of promise in a marvellous prophecy. A certain pilgrim from Britain, named Mochta, a holy disciple of the holy bishop Patrick, made this prophecy about our patron, which has been passed down by those who learnt of it and held to be genuine:

"In the last days of the world, a son will be born whose name Columba will become famous through all the provinces of the ocean's islands, and he will be a bright light in the last days of the world. The fields of our two monasteries, mine and his, will be separated by only a little hedge. A man very dear to God and of great merit in his sight." ...'

Text: Anderson and Anderson 1991, 4. Translation: Sharpe 1995, 104-5.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Columba, abbot of Iona (north-west Britain), ob. 597 : S02167 Mochta, disciple of Patrick in Ireland, ob. 535 : S02204 Patrick, missionary and bishop, patron saint of Ireland, ob. 461 : S01962

Saint Name in Source

Columba Maucteus Patricius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles


  • 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) Miracle during lifetime


The Life of Columba was composed by Adomnán (ob. 704), a distant kinsman of the saint and, from 679, his eighth successor as abbot of the island-monastery of Iona (modern-day western Scotland). Although the Life contains few concretely datable events, Adomnán’s implication that he had been abbot for at least seventeen years during his account of a certain miracle (2.44) provides a terminus post quem of 696 for his composition, while his remark that another took place when he had been on his way home from an Irish synod (2.45) probably refers to the meeting held at Birr in June 697. That year, or some point shortly after, seems particularly attractive for the dating of the composition, coinciding as it does with the centenary of Columba’s death. Remarkably, a manuscript of the Life in the hand of the Ionan priest Dorbbéne, datable to around 700, and thus probably produced within the author’s own lifetime, survives at Schaffhausen (Switzerland). Later manuscripts suggest two distinct traditions of the Life: Dorbbéne’s ‘A’ text circulated in abbreviated form in continental Europe, while a slightly revised ‘B’ text was copied in England and Scotland. The ‘B’ Life appears to be roughly contemporary with ‘A’, and is thought to reflect Adomnán’s own revisions. For an overview of Adomnán’s Life of Columba, see E06056.


The obit of Mochta/Maucteus, 'disciple of Patrick', appears under 19 August, 535 in the Annals of Ulster. Later traditions would associate him with the church at Louth, north-east Ireland (for full discussion, see Sharpe 1990, and idem 1995, 244-5).


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., "Saint Mauchteus, discipulus Patricii," in: A. Bammesberger and A. Wollmann (eds.), Britain, 400-600: Language and History (Heidelberg, 1990), 85-93. Sharpe, R., Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives: An Introduction to the Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae (Oxford, 1991).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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