University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E06598: Adomnán, in his Life of *Columba (abbot of Iona, ob. 597, S02167), recounts how he twice turned contrary winds by chiding the dead saint, the second time being the feast day of the saint and his successor *Baithéne (second abbot of Iona, ob. c. 600, S02475). Written in Latin at Iona, 696/704.

online resource
posted on 2018-09-25, 00:00 authored by bsavill
Adomnán, Life of Columba 2.45

For an overview of this work, see E06056.

De uentorum flatibus contrariis uenerabilis uiri uirtute orationum in secundos conuersis uentos

Praeteritorum nobis quae non uidimus talium miraculorum praesentia quae ipsi perspeximus fidem indubitanter confirmant. Ventorum namque flamina contrariorum tribus nos ipsi uicibus in secunda uidimus conuersa. [...]

Secunda uero uice [...] alia die tranquillo nautis mare plalmulis uerrentibus subito nobis contrarius insurgit fabonius qui et zefirus uentus. In proximam tum declinamus insulam quae scotice uocitatur Airthrago, in ea portum ad mandendum quaerentes. Sed inter haec de illa inportuna uenti contrarietate querimur, et quodam modo quasi accussare nostrum Columbam coepimus, dicentes: 'Placetne tibi sancte heac nobis aduersa retardatio? Huc usque a te deo propitio aliqud nostrorum laborum praestari sperauimus consulatorium adiumentum, te uidelicet estimantes alicuius esse grandis apud deum honoris.'

His dictis, post modicum quasi unius momenti interuallulum, mirum dictu ecce fabonius uentus cessat contrarius, ulturnusque flat dicto citius secundus [...] Non mediocriter quamlibet levuis illa querula nobis sancti accussatio uiri profuit. Quantique et qualis est apud dominum meriti sanctus apparet, quem in uentorum ipse tam celeri conuersione audierat.

Tertia proinde uice [...] ad Saineam deuenimus insulam; ibidem demoratos festiuae sancti Columbae nox et sollemnis diei nos inuenit ualde tristificatos uidelicet desiderantes eandem diem in Iuoa facere laetificam insula. Vnde sicut prius alia querebamur uice, dicentes, 'Placetne tibi sancte crastinam tuae festiuitatis inter plebeos et non in tua eclesia transigere diem? Facile tibi est talis in exordio diei a domino inpetrare, ut contrarii in secundos uertantur uenti, et in tua celebremus eclesia tui natalis misarum sollemnia.

Post eandem transactam noctem diluculo mane consurgimus, et uidentes cessasse contrarios flatus conscensis nauibus nullo flante uento in mare progredimur [...] postea manuum et pedum peracta lauatione hora sexta eclesiam cum fratribus intrantes sacra misarum sollempnia pariter celebraremus, in die festo inquam natalis sanctorum Columbae et Vaithenei [...]

Huius ergo praemissae narrationis testes non bini tanum uel terni secundum legem sed centeni et amplius adhuc exstant.

'How the intercession of St Columba turned contrary winds into favourable winds

The present-day miracles that I have seen myself confirm my faith in such events in the past, which I have not seen. For example, the changing of contrary winds to a favourable one I have myself witnessed on three occasions...

... The second time ... On a dead calm day, when the sailors were having to use oars, a wind suddenly sprang up from the west, blowing head on against them. We put in to the nearest island, called Eilean Shona, intending to stay in sheltered water. All the while I complained of this inconvenient change of wind, and began after a fashion to chide our St Columba, saying:

'Is this troublesome delay in our efforts what you wanted, St Columba? To this point I had hoped that by God's favour you would bring help and comfort in our labours, since I thought you stood in high honour with God.'

Hardly a minute had passed when the west wind dropped and, strange to say, a wind immediately blew from the north-east ... My little complaint against St Columba, trivial though it was, brought us considerable advantage. It is obvious how great and how special is the saint's merit with the Lord, who made the wind change as soon as he heard.

The third time this happened was during the summer ... We had reached the island of Saine, and the eve of St Columba's solemn feast saw us still held up there. I was much disappointed by this, for I very much wanted to be in Iona for this joyful day. So, as on the previous occasion, I complained, saying:

'Is it your wish, O saint, that I should stay here among the lay people until tomorrow, and not spend the day of your feast in your own church? It is such an easy thing for you on a day like this to change an adverse wind into a favourable one, so that I might partake of the solemn masses of your feast day in your own church.'

When night had passed and we rose at first light, we realized that the wind had dropped completely and we set out in the boats in still weather ... So we were able to wash our hands and feet before entering the church with the brethren to celebrate together the solemn mass at the hour of Sext, for the feast of St Columba and St Baithéne...

The law requires two or three witnesses, but there are a hundred and more who will testify to the truth of this account.'

Text: Anderson and Anderson 1991, 174-8. Translation: Sharpe 1995, 200-203.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Columba, abbot of Iona, ob. 597 : S02167 Baithéne, second abbot of Iona (north-west Britain), ob. c. 600 : S02475

Saint Name in Source

Columba Baitheneus

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


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.


These are rare examples of posthumous miracles in early Irish hagiography; evidence of the successful chiding of saints is rare anywhere in our database. Baithéne succeeded his cousin Columba as the second abbot of Iona (597-c. 600). He appears several times elsewhere in the Life (e.g. E06059), although this passage is distinct in describing him as a saint with an observed feast-day. Evidently that feast coincided with Columba's (9 June): possibly this was part of a convention of joint commemoration, rather than a tradition that both men died on the same day of the year (Sharpe 1995, 256-7).


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).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager