The Life of Saint Columba

The Life of Saint Columba

Introduction by: Richard Sharpe
Translator: Richard Sharpe

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780140444629
  • 432 Pages
  • Penguin Classics
  • Adult


Although related to one of the ruling families of Ireland, Columba (c 521-97) became a central figure in the ‘Age of Saints’ by setting out from his native land and founding his famous monastery on the island of Iona.

It was from here that priests and monks played a key role in converting the Picts of Scotland, here that countless penitents came on pilgrimages and that the King of Dalriada (Argyll) came to be consecrated. Adomnán’s Life, writes Richard Sharpe, is the fullest early account, offering a ‘vivid depiction of the abbot among his own monks, written on the spot by the saint’s successor one hundred years after Columba’s death’.

Drawing on extensive written and oral traditions, Adomnán presents Columba as a man distinguished for his prophetic and miraculous powers, whose life was filled with angelic apparitions and whose dying days were spent preparing for his departure. A stimulating Introduction sketches in the background, the archaeological evidence from Iona and the legends that grew up around Columba in medieval and more recent times. The result is an ideal new edition, equally suitable for readers seeking spiritual insight or the hard core of historical fact.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Table of Contents

Life of Columba – Adomnán of Iona Preface
Genealogical tables
St. Columba, his early life
St. Columba, “an island soldier”
St. Columba and the Irish
St. Columba and the Picts
St. Columba’s death His successors
Adomnán of Iona, abbot and statesman
Adomnán and the writing of the Life
The island and monastery of Iona
The Columban community after Adomnán
The Later history of Iona
The medieval legend of St. Columba
The modern legend of St. Columba
The Life of Columba
The preface
The second preface
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Manuscripts and editions
Pesonal names
Peoples and dynasties
Place names
St. Columba’s name
St. Mochta’s prophecy
Adomnán’s informants
St. Columba’s lineage
King Oswald’s baptism
St. Munnu of Taghmon
The foundation of Derry
St. Baithene, second abbot of Iona
The name of Iona
The foundation of Durrow
St. Cainnech of Aghaboe
St. Colmán Elo of Lynally
The whirlpool of Corryvreckan
Áedán mac Gabráin, king of Dalriada
Domnall mac Áedo, king of Ireland
St. Lasrén, third abbot of Iona
St. Columba’s servant Diarmait
The burial ground of Iona
Dairmait mac Cerbaill, king of Ireland
The monstery of Hinba
The meeting of the kings at Druim Cett
St. Comgall of Bangor
St. Uinniau
The monastic office in Iona
Synods in the Irish church
Aldfrith, king of Northumbria
The list of St. Columba’s companions
The royal ordination of Áedán
Cumméne’s book
The burial of St. Odran
The monastic building at Iona
The church of Eigg
Fergnae, fourth abbot of Iona
St. Columba’s burial place
PRH Book Clubs Survey