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E06060: Adomnán, in his Life of *Columba (abbot of Iona, ob. 597, S02167), describes how Columba brought a dead child back to life, thus equalling the prophets *Elijah and *Elisha (S00217 and S00239] and the apostles *Peter (S00036), *Paul (S00008) and *John (S00042). 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 2.32

For an overview of this work, see E06056.

De puero quem mortuum uir uenerandus in Christi domini nomine suscitauit

Illo in tempore quo sanctus Columba in Pictorum prouincia per aliquot demorabatur dies, quidam cum tota plebeus familia uerbum uitae per interpretatorem sancto predicante uiro audiens credidit, credensque babtizatus est maritus cum marita liberisque et familiaribus. Et post aliquantum diecularum interuallum paucarum unus filiorum patris familias graui correptus egritudine usque ad confinia mortis et uitae perductus est. Quem cum magi morientem uidissent parentibus cum magna exprobatione coeperunt inludee, suosque quasi fortiores magnificare deos, christianorum uero tamquam infirmiori deo derogare.

Quae omnia cum beato intimarentur uiro zelo suscitatus dei ad domum cum suis comitibus amici pergit plebei, ubi parentes nuper defunctae prolis mestas celebrabant exequias. Quos sanctus ualde tristificatos uidens confirmans dictis conpellat consultatoriis, ut nullo modo de diuina omnipotentia dubitarent. Consequenterque percunctatur, dicens: 'In quo hospitiolo corpus defuncti iacet pueri?'

Pater tum orbatus sanctum sub mestum deducit culmen. Qui statim omnem foris exclusam relinquens cateruam solum mestificatum intrat habitaculum; ubi ilico flexis genibus faciem ubertim lacrimis inrigans Christum precatur dominum. Et post ingeniculationem surgens oculos conuertit ad mortuum, dicens, 'In nomine domini Iesu Christi resuscitare, et sta super pedes tuos.'

Cum hac sancti honorabili uoce anima ad corpus rediit, defunctusque apertis reuixit oculis; cuius manum tenens apostolicus homo erexit, et in statione stabiliens secum domum egresus deducit, et parentibus rediuiuum adsignauit. Clamor tum populi attollitur, plangor in laetationem conuertitur, deus christianorum glorificatur.

Hoc noster Columba cum Elia et Eliseo profetis habeat sibi commone uirtutis miraculum, et cum Petro et Paulo et Ioanne apostolis partem honoris similem in defunctorum resuscatione, et inter utrosque, hoc est profetarum et apostolorum coetus, honorificam caelestis patriae sedem homo profeticus et apostolicus aeternalem, cum Christo qui regnat cum patre in unitate spiritus sancti per omnia saecula saeculorum.

'How St Columba in the Lord's name raised a boy from the dead

During the time when St Columba spent a number of days in the province of the Picts, he was preaching the word of life through an interpreter. A Pictish layman heard him and with his entire household believed and was baptized, husband, wife, children and servants. A few days later one of his sons was seized with a severe pain, which brought him to the boundary of life and death. When the heathen wizards saw that the boy was dying, they began to make a mock of the parents and to reproach them harshly, making much of their own gods and belittling he God of the Christians as feebler.

All this was made known to St Columba and it stirred him vigorously to take God's part. He set off with his companions to visit the layman's house, and there he found that the child had recently died and is parents were performing the rituals of mourning. Seeing their great distress, St Columba comforted them and assured them that they should not in any way doubt that God is almighty. Then he proceeded to question them, saying: 'In which of these buildings does the body of the dead boy lie?'

The bereaved father led St Columba to that sad lodging, which the saint entered alone, leaving the crowd of people outside. Having gone inside, St Columba immediately knelt and, with tears streaming down his face, prayed to Christ the Lord. After these prayers on bended knee, he stood up and turned his gaze to the dead boy, saying: 'In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, wake up again and stand on thy feet.'

At the saint's glorious word the soul returned to the body, and the boy that was dead opened his eyes and lived again. St Columba took hold of the boy's hand, raised him to his feet and, steadying him, led him out of the house. He gave the boy, now restored to life, back to his parents, and a great shout went up from the crowd. Mourning gave way to celebration and the God of the Christians was glorified.

One must recognise that in this miracle of power our St Columba is seen to share with the prophets Elijah and Elisha and with the apostles Peter and Paul and John the rare distinction of raising the dead to life. He has a seat of everlasting glory in the heavenly homeland as himself a prophet and apostle among the companies of the prophets and apostles, with Christ who with the Father and the Holy Ghost reigns for ever and ever.'

Text: Anderson and Anderson 1991, 138-40. Translation: Sharpe 1995, 179-80.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Columba, abbot of Iona (north-west Britain), ob. 597 : S02167 Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217 Elisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Columba Elias Eliseus Petrus Paulus Ioannes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Collections of miracles 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

Miracle during lifetime Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Family


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.


Sharpe, following Fowler, notes the homiletic qualities of this passage: 'what we have here, therefore, may be a glimpse of Adomnán the preacher, though Sulpicius too uses homiletic perorations about St Martin' (see further Sharpe, 1995, 334).


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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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