St. Adamnan the Liberator of Women,
Abbot of Iona
A distant relative of Columba, St. Adamnan
is thought to have been a native of Donegal who
became a monk at Iona, where he was elected abbot
in 679. He succeeded Seghire, the eighth abbot,
who is thought to have tonsured Adamnan. After
two trips to England, he was persuaded of the
correctness of Roman practices, such as the dating
of Easter. He pled for their acceptance at Iona,
whose monks did not adopt them until 716, and at
several monasteries in Ireland. Some monks in Adamnan's
native land did adopt Roman usage. At the 697 Synod of
Birr (or Tara), he argued persuasively that women and
children are non-combatants who ought neither to
fight nor to be taken prisoners of war. The
canon is called Adamnan's Law.
He was a writer, and his best known work is the
Life of St. Columba, which is a source of
information about Irish monasticism, as well as
about its subject. Scholars in the Middle Ages
characterized Adamnan as illustrious, a judgement
based in part on his De locis sanctis (On the Holy Places),
an account of the Holy Land based on the travels of
Arculfis. Adamnan may have written commentary on Vergil.
Fîs Adamnáin (The Vision of Adamnan)
is no longer considered his work. Preserved in the
Book of the Dun Cow (c. 1100, the text,
which scholars say is based on pagan accounts of
journeys to the Other World, relates the journey of
Adamnan's soul through the seven stages to perfection
and to the Land of Torment.
Karen Rae Keck
- The LAW OF ADAMNAN: Protecting
women and children
in time of war.
Cain Adamnain: An ancient Irish text
Adamnan's laws, including a
typically extravagant Celtic version of how they
came about, and a life of his mother
Kuno Meyer translation.
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