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St. Adamnan the Liberator of Women, Abbot of Iona

VII/VIII Centuries
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

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