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E06062: Adomnán, in his Life of *Columba (abbot of Iona, ob. 597, S02167), describes how the saint knew miraculously of the death of *Colmán moccu Loígse (bishop in Leinster, 6th c., S02250) and how he added his name into the liturgy next to (or in place of) that of *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050). 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 3.12

For an overview of this work, see E06056.

De angelorum uisione sanctorum qui sancti Columbani episcopi mocu Loigse animam ad caelum exuerant

Quadam itidem die, dum fratres se calciantes mane ad diuersa monaterii opera ire praepararent, sanctus econtra ea die otiari praecipit, sacraeque oblationis obsequia praeparari, et aliquam quasi in dominico prandioli adiectionem fieri.

'Meque,' ait, 'hodie, quamlibet indignus sim, ob uenerationem illius animae quae hac in nocte inter sanctos angelorum choros uecta ultra siderea caelorum spatia ad paradisum ascendit, sacra oportet eucharistiae celebrare misteria.'

Et his dictis fratres obsequntur, et iuxta sancti iusionem eadem otiantur die, praeparatisque sacris ad eclesiam ministeriis quasi die sollempni albati cum sancto pergunt. Sed forte, dum inter talia cum modolatione officia illa consueta decantaretur deprecatio in qua sancti Martini commemoratur nomen, subito sanctus ad cantatores eiusdem onomatis ad locum peruenientes: 'Hodie,' ait, '"pro sancto Columbano episcopo" decantare debetis.'

Tunc omnes qui inerant fratres intellexere quod Columbanus episcopus lagenensis carus Columbae amicus ad dominum emigrauerit. Et post alicuius temporis interuallum aliqui de lagenica commeantes prouincia ea nocte eundem obisse nuntiant episcopum qua sancto ita reuelatum est.

'Of a vision in which holy angels carried to heaven the soul of the holy bishop Colmán moccu Loígse

Likewise, one day when the brethren were putting on their shoes in the morning ready to go out too various tasks around the monastery, St Columba stopped them and gave orders that there should be no work that day. Instead they should prepare for the right of the sacred offering, and there should be a special meal as on the Lord's day.

'And I who am so unworthy,' he said, 'must today celebrate the sacred mystery of the Eucharist, out of reverence for the soul that last night was carried away among the choirs of angels and ascended beyond the starry heavens to paradise.'

The brethren were obedient to his words. That day was made a holiday, the preparations were made for the sacred liturgy, and they all went to the church clothed in white as for a major feast. As they were singing the office, they reached the point where the prayer is usually chanted, which mentions the name of Martin. Here St Columba suddenly said to the singers: 'Today you must chant "for St Colmán the bishop".'

At this, all who were present realized that Bishop Colmán in Leinster, St Columba's friend, had gone to the Lord. Some time later, travellers arrived from Leinster bringing the news that the bishop had died on the night when this was revealed to St Columba.'

Text: Anderson and Anderson 1991, 198-200. Translation: Sharpe 1995, 214-5.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Colmán moccu Loígse, bishop in Leinster, sixth century : S02250 Columba, abbot of Iona (north-west Britain), ob. 597 : S02167 Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050

Saint Name in Source

Columbanus Columba Martinus

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Angels Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


This passage is suggestive of the prominence of Martin's cult in Ireland and northern Britain in Adomnán's time, if not necessarily Columba's. It is unclear whether Adomnán states here that Columba sought to replace Martin's name with Colmán's in the liturgy, or to place the two side-by-side; the latter intention seems more likely. The later Martyrology of Tallaght would commemorate Colmán moccu Loígse on 15 May (for full discussion see Sharpe 1995, 365-7).


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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