Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Adamnan

[Saint Adamnan]Article

(or Eunan) Abbot of Iona, born at Drumhome, County Donegal, Ireland, c.624; died at the Abbey of Iona, in 704. He was educated by the Columban monks of his native place, subsequently becoming a novice at Iona in 650. In 679 he succeeded to the abbacy of Iona, which position he held up to his death. He was also president-general of all the Columban houses in Ireland. During his rule he paid three lengthy visits to Ireland, one of which is memorable for his success in introducing the Roman Paschal observance. On his third visit (697) he assisted at the Synod of Tara, when the Cain Adamnain, or Canon of Adamnan was adopted, which freed women and children from the evils inseparable from war, forbidding them to be killed or made captive in times of strife. It is not improbable, as stated in the “Life of Saint Gerald” (died Bishop of Mayo, 732), that Adamnan ruled the abbey of Mayo from 697 until 23 September 704, but in Ireland his memory is inseparably connected with Raphoe, of which he is patron.

From a literary point of view, Saint Adamnan takes the very highest place as the biographer of Saint Columba (Columcille), and as the author of a treatise “De Locis Sanctis”. Pinkerton describes his “Vita Columbae” as “the most complete piece of biography that all Europe can boast of, not only at so early a period but even through the whole Middle Ages”. It was printed by Colgan (from a copy supplied by Father Stephen White, S.J.), and by the Bollandists, but it was left for a nineteenth-century Irish scholar (Dr. Reeves, Protestant Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore) to issue, in 1837, the most admirable of all existing editions. Saint Bede highly praises the tract “De Locis Sanctis”, the autograph copy of which was presented by Saint Adamnan to King Aldfrid of Northumbria, who had studied in Ireland. The “Four Masters” tells us that he was “tearful, penitent, fond of prayer, diligent and ascetic, and learned in the clear understanding of the Holy Scriptures of God.” His feast is celebrated 23 September.

MLA Citation

  • William Grattan-Flood. “Saint Adamnan”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Saints.SQPN.com. 17 August 2013. Web. 26 December 2014. <>