Adamnán ( ?625-704)


Life
[var. Adomnán; anglice Adamnan]; hagiographer, not saint , hence err. S. Adamnan]; prob. b. Co. Donegal; same family as St. Columba [Columcille]; ninth Abbot of Iona in 679; successful appeal to Aldfrith King of Northumbria, an Iona student, for release of Irish captives, 686; adopted Roman view of calendar; took part in synods in Ireland, notably Birr, 697, where he won acceptance for his ‘lex innocentium [law of innocents]’ protecting non-combatants in war (his draft preserved as Cáin Adamnáin);
the Lebor na hUidhri contains Fís Adamnáin [“The Vision of Adamnan”], ascribed to him by legend; compiled De Locis Sanctis, a treatise on the Holy Land from the narration of Arculf, a French bishop who was shipwrecked on one of the ‘Western Isles’ on his return from pilgrimage; wrote a life of St. Columcille as Vita Sancta Columbae of which there is a 12th c. manuscript copy in Schaffhausen Library, Switzerland;
in it Adamnán calls speaks of Columba's leaving Ireland as a peregrine (pro Christo peregrinari volens enavigavit), and argues for a pacific approach towards differences over the Paschal calendar; d. 23 Oct; an Irish life of Adamnán was compiled at Kells, Co. Meath, c.960; older tributes to him include that by Bede (673-735) in Historia Ecclesiastica; the Vita was edited by William Reeves in the Scriptores Latini Hiberniae series from 8th c. codex (1857). DIW DIB FDA OCIL

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Works
  • William Reeves, Vita Sancta Columbae: The Life of St. Columba Founder of Hy, Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of Iona, edited from 8th c. Codex [for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society] (Dublin UP 1857), Do. [new edn. ... prepared under the superintendence of the Bishop of Brechin and the notes rearranged by W. F. Skene] (Edinburgh: Edmonton & Douglas 1874), clxxxiv, 385pp., 8°.; Do. Vita Sancti Columbæ, Life of Saint Columba, founder of Hy (Llanerch Enterprises 1988) [presum. rep. edn. of preceeding];
  • Daniel MacCarthy, ed., Life of Saint Columba ... Translated from the Latin of St. Adamnan, with Copious Notes (Dublin: J. Duffy & Co. [1861]), xxiv. 219pp., 8o.;
  • Wentworth Huyshe, ed., The Life of Saint Columba / Columb-Kille A.D. 521-597 ... Newly Translated from the Latin (London: G. Routledge & Sons 1905), lxix, 255pp., ill.;
  • Denis Meehan, ed. Adamnan’s De Locis Sanctis (Dublin 1958);
  • Máire Herbert & Pádraig Ó Riain, eds. Betha Adamnáin: The Irish Life of Adamnán [Irish Texts Society, LIV] (London 1988).

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Criticism
  • Venerable Bede, Historia Ecclestica, V, 15-17, 21-22;
  • Vita Sancta Columbae: The Life of St. Columba, Founder of Hy, written by Adamnan, ninth Abbot of Iona, edited from 8th c. codex [for the Irish Archaeological and Celtic Assoc.] (Dublin UP 1857), and Do., [new edn. ... prepared under the superintendence of the Bishop of Brechin and the notes rearranged by W. F. Skene] (Edinburgh: Edmonton & Douglas 1874), clxxxiv, 385pp., 8°.;
  • Rev. J. Healy, ‘St. Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of Hy’, in The Irish ecclesiastical record: a monthly journal under episcopal sanction [Ser. 3], Vol. III (July 1882), pp.408-19.
  • C[harles] S[tuart] Boswell, An Irish Precursor of Dante: A Study on the Vision of Heaven and Hell Ascribed to the 8th c. Irish Saint Adamnan with a Translation of the Irish Text (London: Nutt 1908), 262pp.;
  • Denis Meehan & Ludwig Bieler, eds., Adamnan’s De Locis Sanctis [Scriptores Latini Hiberniae, Vol. 3] (Dublin: DIAS 1958);
  • A. O. & M. O. Anderson, Adamnan’s Life of Columba (London: [q.pub.] 1961);
  • James F. Kenney, ‘The Irish Church in the Celtic Period’, in The Sources for the Early History of Ireland: An Introduction and Guide, Vol. 1 (New York: Columbia UP 1929), and Do. [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Four Courts 1979), espec. pp.283-87;
  • Pádraig Ó Riain, ‘Adamnán’s Age at Death, Fact or Symbol?’, in Studia Celtica Japonica, 5 (1993) [q.pp.];
  • Thomas O Loughlin, ‘Adomnán and Mira Rotunditas , in Eriú, Vol. 47 (1996), pp.95-100;
  • Thomas OLoughlin, ‘The Diffusion of Adomnán's De Locis Sanctis in the Medieval Period , in Eriú, Vol. 51 (2000), pp.93-106;
  • David Woods, ‘Arculf s Luggage: The Sources for Adomnán s De Locis Sanctis’, in Eriú, Vol. 52 (2001), pp.25-52;
  • Warren Bardsley, Against the Tide: The Story of Adomnán of Iona (Glasgow: Wild Goose Publs. 2006), 175pp.

Also W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; this edn. 1984), pp.8, 183-84 [see extract].

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Commentary
W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; this edn. 1984), [q.p.]: remarks: ‘If the Adamnán who wrote a commentary on Virgil’s “Eclogues” and “Georgics” was Adamnán abbot of Iona, as many believe, we can be confident that texts of Virgil and some early commentators on his works were available in this “little Ireland”. But we can hardly go as far as Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall [&c.] (Chp. 37, n.24), who believed that Iona had “a classical library which offered some hopes of an entire Livy”’ (p.7). [Stanford implies Kenney - who cites citing a classical colophon in Adamnán - (Sources, 1929) is one of the believers.] ‘[T]he first statement about the existence of Greek writings in an Irish monastery (but not in Ireland) is in the book by Adamnán of Iona [viz.] On the Holy Places, written shortly after 680. He was able to consult “books of Greek (libri Graecitatis)”, but what they were ... we cannot now determine.’ (p.8.) Further: ‘Adamnán’s On the Holy Places (De Locis Sanctis), gives information given directly to him by a Frankish bishop Arculf, who had visited Jerusalem about 680, and shows sound historical method and good Latin. Arculf’s account is supplemented with facts drawn from Jerome and other Christian writers, in turn drawing on classical sources’; the book was widely copied in medieval times and cited as an authority as late as the 15th c. (pp.183-84).

George Little, Dublin Before the Vikings (Dublin: MH Gill 1957), p.76, notes that Adamnán's Vita Sancti Columbae records ten kinds of Irish ships [viz.], navis longa (Ir. Ler-long, in Brehon Law tract, The Small Primer, I, p.105); barca (Ir., barc, for coasting, a ship for which 17 cows was payable to the builders, Saor luinge, acc. Brehon laws, H2, 16, TCD, and also called Serrcenn, sawhead (presum. cutter); Navis oneraria, cargo-ship; caupallus, victualling ship, or hollowed out canoe; naufagium scaphae familiae, a type of passenger ship; curuca (Ir. curragh, worth 17 cows); navicula, sail-boat (Ir. curachán); Cymba or cymbula, ferry-boat; alnus, a boat of alder wood (cf. Georgics, I, 136, ‘the first boats hollowed out of alder).

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Quotations
Prophecy: ‘This cloud will bring destruction to men and herds. See how rapidly it spreads over the country. Before nightfall it will have engulfed all the land lying between Delvin River and Ath Cliath. From it will be voided rain and pestilence so that the bodies of men will wince and weep with ulcers and in like manner will it affect the udders of cows, so that all must die. Aided by God’s mercy let us bring them aid. Come, Sílnan, let us go together and prepare a boat that you (at least) may sail on the morrow’s tide. You living, and God willing, bring them bread which I will bless; moistened with water let them eat of it; and health will come again.’ (Life of Colum Cille, Bk. II, Chp. IV, Dublin: Duffy, 1861, pp.107-09.)

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Notes
William Reeves: Reeves’ edn. of Adamnán’s Life of St Columba or Colum Cille includes some poems in old Irish attributed to Adamnan him cited in (Cited in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, p.126.)

Douglas Hyde cites the date of composition of “The Death of Columcille” [sic], written by Adamnán, as 713. (See Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, Washington, Catholic University of America, 1904, Vol. 4, p.1618.)

John Eglinton remarked that Adamnán retained a monk to tell his lies for him. (See Bards and Saintsi [Tower Booklets No. 5], Maunsel, 1906, pp.53-49.)

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Easter calendar: Beryl Schlossman writes, ‘A controversary over the date of Easter arose in the 7th century when Roman missionaries found that Irish method for calculating the feast was out of keeping with that in Rome; between 629 and 636 the south of Ireland gave in to Roman pressure though the north only accepted the new method at the Synod of Birr in 696, while the community at Iona remained faithful to the Irish Church throughout the whole controversy.’ (See Schlossman, op.cit., Winsconsin UP 1995, p.123.)

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