Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy
Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of Hy, editor William Reeves, Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874
Image courtesy Elizabeth Johnson
BOOK II. ON HIS MIRACULOUS POWERS.
CHAPTER I. Of the Wine which was formed from water.
AT another time, while the venerable man was
yet a youth in Scotia (Ireland) learning the wisdom of the Holy Scripture under
St. Findbarr, the bishop, it happened that on a festival day not the least drop
of wine could be found for the mystic sacrifice. Hearing the ministers of the
altar complaining among themselves of this want, he took the vessel and went to
the fountain, that, as a deacon, he might bring pure spring water for the
celebration of the Holy Eucharist; for at that time he was himself serving in
the order of deacon. The holy man then blessed in faith that element of water
taken from the spring, invoking, as he did so, the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who in Cana of Galilee had changed water into wine: and the result was
that by His operation in this miracle also, an inferior element, namely pure
water, was changed into one of a more excellent kind, namely wine, by the hands
of this illustrious man. The holy man, then returning from the fountain and
entering the church, placed beside the altar the vessel containing this liquid,
and said to the ministers: "Here is wine, which the Lord Jesus hath sent,
for the celebration of His mysteries." The holy bishop and his ministers
having ascertained the fact, returned most ardent thanks to God. But the holy
youth ascribed this, not to himself, but to the holy bishop Vinnian. This first
proof of miraculous power, Christ the Lord manifested in His disciple, just as
under like circumstances He had made it the first of His own miracles in Cana of
CHAPTER II. Of the bitter fruit of a tree changed into sweet by the blessing of the Saint.
THERE was a certain very fruitful apple tree on the south side of the monastery of the Oakwood Plain (Derry), in its immediate vicinity. When the inhabitants of the place were complaining of the exceeding bitterness of the fruit, the saint one day in autumn, came to it, and seeing the boughs bearing to no purpose a load of fruit that injured rather than pleased those who tasted it, he raised his holy hand and blessed it, saying, "In the name of the Almighty God, O bitter tree, let all thy bitterness depart from thee; and let all thy apples, hitherto so very bitter, be now changed into the sweetest." Wonderful to be told, quicker than the word, and at that very instant, all the apples of the tree lost their bitterness, and were changed to an amazing sweetness, according to the saint's word.
CHAPTER III. Of Corn sown after Midsummer and reaped in the beginning of the month of August, at the Saint's prayer, while he was residing in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona).
AT another time the saint sent his monks to bring from the little farm of a peasant some bundles of twigs to build a dwelling. When they returned to the saint, with a freight-ship laden with the foresaid bundles of twigs, they told the saint that the poor man was very sorry on account of the loss. The saint immediately gave them these directions, saying, "Lest we do the man any wrong, take to him from us twice three measures of barley, and let him sow it now in his arable land." According to the saint's orders, the corn was sent and delivered over to the poor man, who was called Findchan, with the above directions. He received them with thanks, but asked, "What good can any corn do, which is sown after midsummer, against the nature of this soil?" But his wife, on the contrary, said, "Do what thou hast been ordered by the saint, to whom the Lord will give whatever he asketh from Him." And the messengers likewise said further, "St. Columba, who sent us to thee with this gift, intrusted us also with this form of instruction regarding thy crop, saying, 'Let that man trust in the omnipotence of God; his corn, though sown now, when twelve days of the month of June are passed, shall be reaped in the beginning of the month of August.'" The peasant accordingly ploughed and sowed, and the crop which, against hope, he sowed at the above-mentioned time he gathered in ripe, to the admiration of all his neighbours, in the beginning of the month of August, in that place which is called Delcros (not identified).
CHAPTER IV. Of a Pestilential Cloud, and the curing of many.
AT another time also, while the saint was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), and was sitting on the little hill which is called, in Latin, Munitio Magna, he saw in the north a dense rainy cloud rising from the sea on a clear day. As the saint saw it rising, he said to one of his monks, named Silnan, son of Nemandon Mocusogin, who was sitting beside him, "This cloud will be very baleful to man and beast, and after rapidly passing today over a considerable part of Scotia (Ireland) namely, from the stream called Ailbine (Delvin, in Meath) as far as the Ford Clied (Athcliath, now Dublin) it will discharge in the evening a pestilential rain, which will raise large and putrid ulcers on the bodies of men and on the udders of cows; so that men and cattle shall sicken and die, worn out with that poisonous complaint. But we, in pity for their sufferings, ought to relieve them by the merciful aid of God; do thou therefore, Silnan, come down with me from this hill, and prepare for thy tomorrow's voyage. If God be willing and life spared to us, thou shalt receive from me some bread which has been blessed by the invocation of the name of God; this thou shalt dip in water, and on thy sprinkling therewith man and beast, they shall speedily recover their health." Why need we linger over it? On the next day, when all things necessary had been hastily got ready, Silnan received the blessed bread from the hands of the saint, and set out on his voyage in peace. As he was starting, the saint gave him these words of comfort, saying, "Be of good courage, my dear son, for thou shalt have fair and pleasant breezes day and night till thou come to that district which is called Ard-Ceannachta (in Meath), that thou mayest bring the more speedily relief with the healing bread to those who are there sick." What more? Silnan, obeying the saint's words, had a quick and prosperous voyage, by the aid of God, and coming to the above-mentioned part of the district, found the people of whom the saint had been speaking destroyed by the pestilential rain falling down from the aforesaid cloud, which had passed rapidly on before him. In the first place, twice three men were found in the same house near the sea reduced to the agonies of approaching death, and when they were sprinkled by Silnan with the blessed water, were very happily healed that very day. The report of this sudden cure was soon carried through the whole country which was attacked by this most fatal disease, and drew all the sick people to St. Columba's messenger, who, according to the saint's orders, sprinkled man and beast with the water in which the blessed bread had been dipped, and immediately they were restored to perfect health; then the people finding themselves and their cattle healed, praised with the utmost expression of thankfulness Christ in St. Columba. Now, in the incidents here related these two things, I think, are clearly associated--namely, the gift of prophecy regarding the cloud and the miraculous power in healing the sick. And to the truth of all these things, in every particular, the above-named Silnan, the soldier of Christ and messenger of St. Columba, bore testimony in the presence of the Abbot Segine and the other fathers.
CHAPTER V. Of Maugina the holy virgin, daughter of Daimen, who had lived in Clochur, of the sons of Daimen (Clogher).
AT another time, while the saint was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he one day at prime called to him a certain brother, named Lugaid, who in the Scotic tongue was surnamed Lathir, and thus addressed him, saying, "Prepare quickly for a rapid voyage to Scotia (Ireland), for it is of the very utmost importance to me that thou be sent with a message from me to Clocher, of the sons of Daimen (Clogher). For this last night, by some accident, the holy virgin Maugina, daughter of Daimen, when she was returning home from the oratory after mass, stumbled and broke her thigh quite through. She is now crying out, and very often calling on my name, in hope that through me she may receive some comfort from the Lord." What more need I say? As Lugaid was setting out in accordance with the directions given him, the saint gave him a little box made of pine, saying, "Let the blessed gift which is contained in this little box be dipped in a vessel of water when thou comest to visit Maugina, and let the water thus blessed be poured on her thigh; then at once, by the invocation of God's name, her thigh-bone shall be joined together and made strong, and the holy virgin shall recover perfect health." This, too, the saint added, "Lo! here in thy presence I write on the lid of this little box the number of twenty- three years, which the holy virgin shall enjoy of this present life after receiving her health." All this was exactly fulfilled as the saint had foretold; for as soon as Lugaid came to the holy virgin her thigh was washed, as the saint recommended, with the blessed water, and was in an instant completely healed by the closing up of the bone. At the arrival of the messenger of St. Columba, she expressed her joy in the most earnest thanksgiving, and, after recovering her health, she lived, according to the prophecy of the saint, twenty-three years in the constant practice of good works.
CHAPTER VI. Of the Cures of various Diseases which took place in the Ridge of Ceate (Druimceatt).
WE have been told by well-informed persons that this man of admirable life, by invoking the name of Christ, healed the disorders of various sick persons in the course of that short time which he spent at the Ridge of Ceate (Druimceatt), when attending there the meeting of the kings. For either by his merely stretching out his holy hand, or by the sprinkling of the sick with the water blessed by him, or by their touching even the hem of his cloak, or by their receiving his blessing on anything, as, for instance, on bread or salt, and dipping it in water, they who believed recovered perfect health.
CHAPTER VII. Of a lump of Salt blessed by the Saint, which could not be consumed by the fire.
On another occasion also, Colga, son of Cellach, asked and obtained from the saint a lump of salt which he had blessed, for the cure of his sister, who had nursed him, and was now suffering from a very severe attack of ophthalmia. This same sister and nurse having received such a blessed gift from the hand of her brother, hung it up on the wall over her bed; and after some days it happened by accident that a destructive fire entirely consumed the village where this took place, and with others the house of the aforesaid woman. Yet, strange to say, in order that the gift of the blessed man might not be destroyed, the portion of the wall from which it was suspended still stood uninjured after the rest of the house had been burned down; nor did the fire venture to touch even the two uprights from which the lump of salt was suspended.
CHAPTER VIII. Of a volume of a book in the Saint's handwriting which could not be destroyed by water.
I CANNOT think of leaving unnoticed another miracle which once took place by means of the opposite element. For many years after the holy man had departed to the Lord, a certain youth fell from his horse into the river which in Scotic is called Boend (the Boyne), and, being drowned, was for twenty days under the water. When he fell he had a number of books packed up in a leathern satchel under his arm; and so, when he was found after the above-mentioned number of days, he still had the satchel of books pressed between his arm and side. When the body was brought out to the dry ground, and the satchel opened, it was found to contain, among the volumes of other books, which were not only injured, but even rotten, a volume written by the sacred fingers of St. Columba; and it was as dry and wholly uninjured as if it had been enclosed in a desk.
Of another Miracle in similar circumstances.
AT another time a book of hymns for the office
of every day in the week, and in the handwriting of St. Columba, having slips,
with the leathern satchel which contained it, from the shoulder of a boy who
fell from a bridge, was immersed in a certain river in the province of the
Lagenians (Leinster). This very book lay in the water from the Feast of the
Nativity of our Lord till the end of the Paschal season, and was afterwards
found on the bank of the river by some women who were walking there: it was
brought by them in the same satchel, which was not only soaked, but even rotten,
to a certain priest named Iogenan, a Pict by race, to whom it formerly belonged.
On opening the satchel himself, Iogenan found his book uninjured, and as clean
and dry as if it had been as long a time in his desk, and had never fallen into
the water. And we have ascertained, as undoubted truth, from those who were well
informed in the matter, that the like things happened in several places with
regard to books written by the hands of St. Columba namely, that the books could
suffer no injury from being immersed in water. But the account we have given of
the above-mentioned book of Iogenan we have received from certain truthful
excellent, and honourable men, who saw the book itself, perfectly white and
beautiful, after a submersion of so many days, as we have stated.
CHAPTER IX. Of Water drawn from the hard rock by the Saint's prayers.
AND since mention has been made a little before of the element of water, we must not pass over in silence some other miracles which the Lord wrought by the saint at different times and places, in which the same element was concerned. On another occasion, then, when the saint was engaged in one of his journeys, a child was presented to him in the course of his travels for baptism by its parents; and because there was no water to be found in the neighbourhood, the saint turned aside to a rock that was near, and kneeling down prayed for a short time; then rising up after his prayer, he blessed the face of the rock, from which there immediately gushed out an abundant stream of water; and there he forthwith baptized the child. Concerning the child that was baptized he uttered the following prophecy, saying, "This child shall live to a very great age; in his youth he will indulge freely the desires of the flesh; afterwards he will devote himself to the warfare of a Christian until the very end of his life, and thus depart to the Lord in a good old age." All this happened to the man according to the prophecy of the saint. This was Lugucencalad, whose parents were from Artdaib Muirchol (Ardnamurchan), where there is seen even to this day a well called by the name of St. Columba.
CHAPTER X. Of a poisonous Fountain of Water to which the blessed man gave his blessing in the country of the Picts.
AGAIN, while the blessed man was stopping for some days in the province of the Picts, he heard that there was a fountain famous amongst this heathen people, which foolish men, having their senses blinded by the devil, worshipped as a god. For those who drank of this fountain, or purposely washed their hands or feet in it, were allowed by God to be struck by demoniacal art, and went home either leprous or purblind, or at least suffering from weakness or other kinds of infirmity. By all these things the Pagans were seduced, and paid divine honour to the fountain. Having ascertained this, the saint one day went up to the fountain fearlessly; and, on seeing this, the Druids, whom he had often sent away from him vanquished and confounded, were greatly rejoiced, thinking that he would suffer like others from the touch of that baneful water. But he, having first raised his holy hand and invoked the name of Christ, washed his hands and feet; and then with his companions, drank of the water which he had blessed. And from that day the demons departed from the fountain; and not only was it not allowed to injure any one, but even many diseases amongst the people were cured by this same fountain, after it had been blessed and washed in by the saint.
CHAPTER XI. Of the Danger to the blessed man at Sea, and the sudden calm produced by his prayers.
AT another time the holy man began to be in great danger at sea, for the whole vessel was violently tossed and shaken with the huge dashing waves, and a great storm of wind was raging on all hands. The sailors then chanced to say to the saint, as he was trying to help them to bale the vessel, "What thou art now doing is of little use to us in our present danger, thou shouldst rather pray for us as we are perishing." On hearing this he ceased to throw out the bitter waters of the green sea wave, and began to pour out a sweet and fervent prayer to the Lord. Wonderful to relate! The very moment the saint stood up at the prow, with his hands stretched out to heaven and prayed to the Almighty, the whole storm of wind and the fury of the sea ceased more quickly than can be told, and a perfect calm instantly ensued. But those who were in the vessel were amazed, and giving thanks with great admiration, glorified the Lord in the holy and illustrious man.
CHAPTER XII. Of another similar Peril to him at Sea.
AT another time, also, when a wild and dangerous storm was raging, and his companions were crying out to the saint to pray to the Lord for them, he gave them this answer, saying, "On this day it is not for me, but for that holy man, the Abbot Cainnech, to pray for you in your present peril." What I am to relate is wonderful. The very same hour St. Cainnech was in his monastery, which in Latin is called Campulus Bovis, but in Scotic Ached-bou (Aghaboe, in Queen's County), and heard with the inner ear of his heart, by a revelation of the Holy Ghost, the aforesaid words of St. Columba; and when he had just begun to break the blessed bread in the refectory after the ninth hour, he hastily left the table, and with one shoe on his foot, while the other in his extreme haste was left behind, he went quickly to the church, saying, "It is not for us now to take time to dine, when the vessel of St. Columba is in danger at sea, for at this moment he is lamenting, and calling on the name of Cainnech to pray to Christ for him and his companions in peril" When he had said this he entered the oratory and prayed for a short time on his bended knees; and the Lord heard his prayer, the storm immediately ceased, and the sea became very calm. Whereupon St. Columba, seeing in spirit, though there was a far distance between them, the haste of Cainnech in going to the church, uttered, to the wonder of all, from his pure heart, these words, saying, "Now I know, O Cainnech, that God has heard thy prayer; now hath thy swift running to the church with a single shoe greatly profited us." In such a miracle as this, then, we believe that the prayers of both saints had their share in the work.
CHAPTER XIII. Of the Staff of St. Cainnech which was forgotten in the Harbour.
ON another occasion, the same Cainnech above mentioned embarked for Scotia (Ireland) from the harbour of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona),and forgot to take his staff with him. After his departure the staff was found on the shore, and given into the hands of St. Columba, who, on his return home, brought it into the oratory, and remained there for a very long time alone in prayer. Cainnech, meanwhile, on approaching the Oidechan island (Oidech, near Isla, probably Texa) suddenly felt pricked at heart at the thought of his forgetfulness, and was deeply afflicted at it. But after some time, leaving the vessel, and falling upon his knees in prayer on the ground, he found before him on the turf of the little land of Aithche (genitive of Aitech) the staff which, in his forgetfulness, he had left behind him at the landing-place in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). He was greatly surprised at its being thus brought to him by the divine power, and gave thanks to God.
CHAPTER XIV. How Baithene and Columban, the son of Beogna, holy priests, asked of the Lord, through the prayers of the blessed man, that he would grant them on the same day a favourable wind, though sailing in different directions.
AT another time, also, the above-named holy men came in company to the saint, and asked him, with one consent, to seek and obtain for them from the Lord a favourable wind on the next day, though they were to set out in different directions. The saint in answer gave them this reply, "To-morrow morning, Baithene, setting sail from the harbour of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), shall have a favourable wind until he reaches the landing-place of the plain of Lunge (Magh Lunge, in Tiree)." And the Lord granted this favour according to the word of the saint; for Baithene on that same day crossed, with full sails, the whole of the open sea, as far as the Ethican land (Tiree). But at the third hour of the same day, the venerable man called to him the priest Columban, saying, "Baithene has now happily arrived at the wished-for haven, prepare thou then to sail to-day; the Lord will soon change the wind to the north." And the same hour the wind from the south obeying the word thus spoken by the holy man, wheeled round and became a northern breeze; and thus on the same day these two holy men departed the one from the other in peace and both set sail, Baithene in the morning for the Ethican land (Tiree), and Columban in the afternoon for Hibernia, and made the voyages with full sails and fair winds. The Lord wrought this miracle in answer to the prayer of the illustrious man, according as it is written, "All things are possible to him that believeth." After the departure of St. Columban on that day, St. Columba uttered this prophecy concerning him: "The holy man, Columban, whom we have blessed on his departure, shall never see my face again in this world." And this was afterwards fulfilled, for the same year St. Columban passed away to the Lord.
CHAPTER XV. Of the driving out of a Demon that Lurked in a Milk-pail.
AT another time, a certain youth, named Columban, grandson of Brian, came forward hurriedly, and stopped at the door of the little cell in which the blessed man was writing. This same person, being on his way home from the milking of the cows, and carrying on his back a vessel full of new milk, asked the saint to bless his burden, as he usually did. Then the saint, being at the time at some distance away in front of him, raised his hand, and formed the saving sign in the air, which at once was greatly agitated; the bar, which fastened the lid of the pail, being pushed back through the two openings that received it, was shot away to a great distance, while the lid fell to the earth, and the greater part of the milk was spilled upon the ground. The young lad then laid down the vessel, with the little milk that remained, on its bottom on the ground, and kneeled down in prayer. The saint said to him, "Rise up, Columban, for thou hast acted negligently in thy work today, inasmuch as thou didst not banish the demon that lurked in the bottom of the empty vessel by forming on it the sign of the cross of our Lord before the milk was poured into it; and now, as thou seest, being unable to bear the power of that sign, he has quickly fled in terror, troubled the whole vessel in every corner, and spilled the milk. Bring the vessel, then, nearer to me here that I may bless it." This being done, the half-empty pail, which the saint had blessed, was found the same instant, filled by divine agency; and the little that had previously remained in the bottom was at once increased under the blessing of his holy hand, so as to fill it to the brim.
CHAPTER XVI. Concerning a Vessel which a sorcerer named Silnan had filled with milk taken from a bull.
THE following is told as having occurred in the house of a rich peasant named Foirtgirn, who lived in Mount Cainle (not identified). When the saint was staying there, he decided justly a dispute between two rustics, whose coming to him he knew beforehand: and one of them, who was a sorcerer, took milk, by his diabolical art, at the command of the saint, from a bull that was near. This the saint directed to be done, not to confirm these sorceries--God forbid! but to put an end to them in the presence of all the people. The blessed man, therefore, demanded that the vessel, full, as it seemed to be, of this milk, should be immediately given to him; and he blessed it with this sentence, saying: "Now it shall in this way be proved that this is not true milk, as it is supposed to be, but blood, which is coloured by the artifice of demons to impose on men." This was no sooner said than the milky colour gave place to the true natural colour of blood. The bull also, which in the space of one hour wasted and pined away with a hideous leanness, and was all but dead, was sprinkled with water that had been blessed by the saint, and recovered with astonishing rapidity.
CHAPTER XVII. Of Lugne Mocumin.
ONE day a young man of good disposition and parts, named Lugne, who afterwards, in his old age, was prior of the monastery of the Elena island (Eileen Naomh, now Nave island, near Isla), came to the saint, and complained of a bleeding which for many months had often poured profusely from the nostrils. Having asked him to come nearer, the saint pressed both his nostrils with two fingers of his right hand and blessed him. And from that hour when he received the blessing, till the last day of his life, a drop of blood never came from his nose.
CHAPTER XVIII. Of the Fishes which were specially provided by God for the blessed man.
ON another occasion, when some hardy fishermen, companions of this renowned man, had taken five fish in their net in the river Sale (the Shiel, or Seil), which abounds in fish, the saint said to them, "Try again," said he; "cast thy net into the stream, and you shall at once find a large fish which the Lord has provided for me." In obedience to the saint's command they hauled in their nets a salmon of astonishing size, which God had provided for him.
AT another time also, when the saint was stopping some, days beside the lake of Ce (Loughkey, in Roscommon), he delayed his companions when they were anxious to go a-fishing, saying: "No fish will be found in the river today or to-morrow; but on the third day I will send you, and you shall find two large river-salmon taken in the net." And so, after two short days, they cast their nets, and landed two, of the most extraordinary size, which they found in the river which is named Bo (the Boyle). In the capture of fish on these two occasions, the power of miracles appears accompanied at the same time by a prophetic foreknowledge, and for both graces the saint and his companions gave fervent thanks to God.
CHAPTER XX. Regarding Nesan the Crooked, who lived in the country bordering on the Lake of Apors (Lochaber).
THIS Nesan, though very poor, joyfully received on one occasion the saint as his guest. And after he had entertained him as hospitably as his means would afford for one night, the saint asked him the number of his heifers. He answered, "Five." The saint then said, "Bring them to me that I may bless them." And when they were brought the saint raised his holy hand and blessed them, and said: "From this day thy five little heifers shall increase to the number of one hundred and five cows." And as this same Nesan was a man of humble condition, having a wife and children, the saint added this further blessing, saying: "Thy seed shall be blessed in thy children and grandchildren." And all this was completely fulfilled without any failure, according to the word of the saint.
ON the other hand, he pronounced the following prophetic sentence on a certain rich and very stingy man named Uigene, who despised St. Columba, and showed him no hospitality, saying: "But the riches of that niggardly man who hath despised Christ in the strangers that came to be his guests, will gradually become less from this day, and be reduced to nothing; and he himself shall be a beggar; and his son shall go about from house to house with a half-empty wallet: and he shall be slain by a rival beggar with an axe, in the pit of a threshingfloor." All this was exactly fulfilled in both cases, according to the prophecy of the holy man.
CHAPTER XXII. How the holy man blessed the few Cattle belonging to Columban, a man of equally humble condition; and how, after his blessing, they increased to the number of a hundred.
AT another time also, the blessed man was one night kindly treated as his guest by the aforesaid Columban, who was then very poor, and, as he had done before in the above account of Nesan, he asked his host, early next morning, as to the amount and kind of his goods. When asked, he said: "I have only five small cows, but if thou bless them they will increase to more." And immediately he was directed by the saint to bring them before him, and in the same manner as was related concerning the five cows of Nesan, he gave as rich a blessing to those of Columban, and said, "Thou shalt have, by God's gift, a hundred and five cows, and an abundant blessing shall be also upon thy children and grandchildren." All this was granted to the full in his lands, and cattle, and offspring, according to the prophecy of the blessed man; and, what is very strange, the number of cattle determined by the saint for both these men, whenever it reached one hundred and five, could not in any way be increased; for those that were beyond this stated number, being carried off by various accidents, never appeared to be of any value, except in so far as anything might be employed for the use of the family, or spent in almsgiving. In this history, then, as in the others, the gifts both of miracles and prophecy are clearly shown together, for in the large increase of the cattle we see the virtue of his blessing and of his prayer, and, in the determination of the number, his prophetic knowledge.
CHAPTER XXIII. Of the Death of some wicked men who had spurned the Saint.
THE venerable man had a great love for the
above-named Columban, on account of the many acts of kindness he had done to
him, and caused him by blessing him, from being poor to become very rich. Now,
there was at that time a certain wicked man, a persecutor of the good, named
Joan, son of Conall, son of Domnall, sprung from the royal tribe of Gabran. This
man troubled the foresaid Columban, the friend of St. Columba; and not once, but
twice, attacked and plundered his house and carried off all he could find in it.
Hence it not unfitly happened to this wicked man, that as he and his associates,
after having plundered the house of the same person a third time, were returning
to their vessel, laden with plunder, he met advancing towards him, the holy man
whom he had despised, when he thought he was afar off. When the saint reproached
him for his evil deeds, and advised and besought him to give up the plunder, he
remained hardened and obstinate, and scorned the holy man; and thus mocking and
laughing at the blessed man, he embarked with the booty. Yet the saint followed
him to the water's edge, and wading up to the knees in the clear green
sea-water, with both his hands raised to heaven, earnestly invoked Christ, who
glorifies His elect, who are giving glory to Him.
CHAPTER XXIV. Of a certain Feradach, who was cut off by sudden death.
AT another time also, the holy man specially recommended a certain exile, of noble race among the Picts, named Tarain, to the care of one Feradach, a rich man, who lived in the Ilean island (Isla), that he might be received in his retinue for some months as one of his friends. After he had accepted the person thus highly recommended at the hand of the holy man, he in a few days acted treacherously, and cruelly ordered him to be put to death. When the news of this horrid crime was carried by travellers to the saint, he replied by the following prediction: "That unhappy wretch hath not lied unto me, but unto God, and his name shall be blotted out of the book of life. We are speaking these words now in the middle of summer, but in autumn, before he shall eat of swine's flesh that hath been fattened on the fruits of the trees, he shall be seized by a sudden death, and carried off to the infernal regions." When the miserable man was told this prophecy of the saint, he scorned and laughed at him; and when some days of the autumn months had passed, he ordered a sow that had been fattened on the kernels of nuts to be killed, none of his other swine having yet been slaughtered: he ordered also, that its entrails should be immediately taken out and a piece quickly roasted for him on the spit, so that by hurrying and eating of it thus early, he might falsify the prediction of the blessed man. As soon as it was roasted he asked for a very small morsel to taste it, but before the hand which he stretched out to take it had reached his mouth he expired, and fell down on his back a corpse. And all who saw or heard it were greatly astonished and terrified; and they honoured and glorified Christ in his holy prophet.
CHAPTER XXV. Concerning a certain other impious man, a persecutor of the Churches, who was called in Latin Manus Dextera.
ON one occasion when the blessed man was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), and set about excommunicating some destroyers of the churches, and amongst them the sons of Conall, son of Domnall, one of whom was the Joan before mentioned, one of their wicked associates was instigated by the devil to rush on the saint with a spear, on purpose to kill him. To prevent this, one of the brethren, named Findlugan, put on the saint's cowl and interposed, being ready to die for the holy man. But in a wonderful way the saint's garment served as a kind of strong and impenetrable fence which could not be pierced by the thrust of a very sharp spear though made by a powerful man, but remained untouched, and he who had it on was safe and uninjured under the protection of such a guard. But the ruffian who did this, whose name was Manus Dextera, retraced his steps thinking he had transfixed the saint with his spear. Exactly a year afterwards, when the saint was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he said, "A year is just now elapsed since the day Lam-dess did what he could to put Findlugan to death in my place; but he himself is slain, I believe, this very hour." And so it happened, at that very moment, according to the revelation of the saint, in the island which in Latin may be called Longa (Luing), where, in a battle fought between a number of men on both sides, this Lam-dess alone was slain by Cronan, son of Baithene, with a dart, shot, it is said, in the name of St. Columba; and when he fell the battle ceased.
CHAPTER XXVI. Of yet another Oppressor of the innocent.
WHEN the holy man, while yet a youth in
deacon's orders, was living in the region of the Lagenians (Leinster), learning
the divine wisdom, it happened one day that an unfeeling and pitiless oppressor
of the innocent was pursuing a young girl who fled before him on a level plain.
As she chanced to observe the aged Gemman, master of the foresaid young deacon,
reading on the plain, she ran straight to him as fast as she could. Being
alarmed at such an unexpected occurrence, he called on Columba, who was reading
at some distance, that both together, to the best of their ability, might defend
the girl from her pursuer; but he immediately came up, and without any regard to
their presence, stabbed the girl with his lance under their very cloaks, and
leaving her lying dead at their feet turned to go away back. Then the old man,
in great affliction, turning to Columba, said: "How long, holy youth
Columba, shall God, the just Judge, allow this horrid crime and this insult to
us to go unpunished?" Then the saint at once pronounced this sentence on
the perpetrator of the deed: "At the very instant the soul of this girl
whom he hath murdered ascendeth into heaven, shall the soul of the murderer go
down into hell." And scarcely had he spoken the words when the murderer of
the innocent, like Ananias before Peter, fell down dead on the spot before the
eyes of the holy youth. The news of this sudden and terrible vengeance was soon
spread abroad throughout many districts of Scotia (Ireland), and with it the
wonderful fame of the holy deacon.
CHAPTER XXVII. How a Wild Boar was destroyed through his prayers.
ON one occasion when the blessed man was staying some days in the Scian island (Sky), he left the brethren and went alone a little farther than usual to pray; and having entered a dense forest he met a huge wild boar that happened to be pursued by hounds. As soon as the saint saw him at some distance, he stood looking intently at him. Then raising his holy hand and invoking the name of God in fervent prayer, he said to it, "Thou shalt proceed no further in this direction: perish in the spot which thou hast now reached." At the sound of these words of the saint in the woods, the terrible brute was not only unable to proceed farther, but by the efficacy of his word immediately fell dead before his face.
ON another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (the Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians.
CHAPTER XXIX. How the Saint blessed the Soil of this Island that no poison of Serpents should henceforth hurt any one in it.
ON a certain day in that same summer in which he passed to the Lord, the saint went in a chariot to visit some of the brethren, who were engaged in some heavy work in the western part of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). After speaking to them some words of comfort and encouragement, the saint stood upon the higher ground, and uttered the following prophecy: "My dear children, I know that from this day you shall never see my face again anywhere in this field." Seeing the brethren filled with sorrow upon hearing these words, the saint tried to comfort them as best he could; and, raising both his holy hands, he blessed the whole of this our island, saying: "From this very moment poisonous reptiles shall in no way be able to hurt men or cattle in this island, so long as the inhabitants shall continue to observe the commandments of Christ."
CHAPTER XXX. Of the Knife which the Saint blessed by signing it with the Lord's Cross.
AT another time, a certain brother named Molua, grandson of Brian, came to the saint whilst he was writing, and said to him, " This knife which I hold in my hand I beseech thee to bless." The saint, without turning his face from the book out of which he was writing, extended his holy hand a little, with the pen in it, and blessed the knife by signing it. But when the foresaid brother had departed with the knife thus blessed, the saint asked, "What sort of a knife have I blessed for that brother?" Diormit, the saint's faithful attendant, replied, "Thou hast blessed a knife for killing bulls or oxen." The saint then, on the contrary, said, "I trust in my Lord that the knife I have blessed will never wound men or cattle." This word of the holy man received the strongest confirmation the same hour; for the same brother went beyond the enclosure of the monastery and attempted to kill an ox, but, although he made three strong efforts with all his strength, yet he could not even cut the skin. When this came to the knowledge of the monks, they skillfully melted down the iron of the knife and applied a thin coating of it to all the iron tools used in the monastery. And such was the abiding virtue of the saint's blessing, that these tools could never afterwards inflict a wound on flesh.
CHAPTER XXXI. Of the cure of Diormit when sick.
AT another time, Diormit, the saint's faithful attendant, was sick even unto death, and the saint went to see him in his extremity. Having invoked the name of Christ, he stood at the bed of the sick man and prayed for him, saying, " O my Lord, be propitious to me, I beseech thee, and take not away the soul of my faithful attendant from its dwelling in the flesh whilst I live." Having said this, he remained silent for a short time, and then again he spoke these words, with his sacred mouth, " My son shall not only not die at present, but will even live for many years after my death." This prayer of the saint was heard, for, on the instant that the saint's prayer was made, Diormit was restored to perfect health, and lived also for many years after St. Columba had passed to the Lord.
CHAPTER XXXII. Of the cure of Finten, the son of Aid, when at the point of death.
AT another time also, as the saint was making a journey beyond the Dorsal Ridge of Britain (Drumalban), a certain youth named Finten, one of his companions, was seized with a sudden illness and reduced to the last extremity. His comrades were much afflicted OD his account, and besought the saint to pray for him. Yielding at once to their entreaties, Columba raised his holy hands to heaven in earnest prayer, and blessing the sick person, said, "This youth for whom you plead shall enjoy a long life; he will survive all who are here present, and die in a good old age." This prophecy of the blessed man was fulfilled in every particular; for this same youth, after founding the monastery of Kailli-au-inde (not identified), closed this present life at a good old age.
CHAPTER XXXIII. Of the boy whom the holy man raised from the dead, in the name of the Lord Christ.
AT the time when St. Columba was tarrying for
some days in the province of the Picts, a certain peasant who, with his whole
family, had listened to and learned through an interpreter the word of life
preached by the holy man, believed and was baptized the husband, together with
his wife, children, and domestics.
CHAPTER XXXIV. Concerning the illness with which the Druid Broichan was visited for his detention of a female slave, and his cure on her release.
ABOUT the same time the venerable man, from
motives of humanity, besought Broichan the Druid to liberate a certain Scotic
female slave, and when he very cruelly and obstinately refused to part with her,
the saint then spoke to him to the following effect: "Know, O Broichan, and
be assured that if thou refuse to set this captive free, as I desire thee, that
thou shalt die suddenly before I take my departure again from this
province." Having said this in presence of Brude, the king, he departed
from the royal palace and proceeded to the river Nesa (the Ness); from this
stream he took a white pebble, and showing it to his companions said to them:
"Behold this white pebble by which God will effect the cure of many
diseases among this heathen nation."
CHAPTER XXXV. Of the manner in which St. Columba overcame Broichan the Druid and sailed against the wind.
ON a certain day after the events recorded in
the foregoing chapters, Broichan, whilst conversing with the saint, said to him:
"Tell me, Columba, when dost thou propose to set sail?" The saint
replied, "I intend to begin my voyage after three days, if God permits me,
and preserves my life." Broichan said, "On the contrary, thou shalt
not be able, for I can make the winds unfavourable to thy voyage, and cause a
great darkness to envelop you in its shade." Upon this the saint observed:
"The almighty power of God ruleth all things, and in His name and under His
guiding providence all our movements are directed." What more need I say?
That same day, the saint, accompanied by a large number of followers, went to
the long lake of the river Nesa (Loch Ness), as he had determined. Then the
Druids began to exult, seeing that it had become very dark, and that the wind
was very violent and contrary. Nor should we wonder, that God sometimes allows
them, with the aid of evil spirits, to raise tempests and agitate the sea. For
thus legions of demons once met in the midst of the sea the holy bishop
Germanus, whilst on his voyage through the Gallican channel to Britain, whither
he was going from zeal for the salvation of souls, and exposed him to great
dangers, by raising a violent storm and causing great darkness whilst it was yet
day. But all these things were dissipated by the prayers of St. Germanus more
rapidly than his words were uttered, and the darkness passed away.
CHAPTER XXXVI Of the sudden opening of the door of the Royal Fortress of its own accord.
AT another time, when the saint made his first journey to King Brude, it happened that the king, elated by the pride of royalty, acted haughtily, and would not open his gates on the first arrival of the blessed man. When the man of God observed this, he approached the folding doors with his companions, and having first formed upon them the sign of the cross of our Lord, he then knocked at and laid his hand upon the gate, which instantly flew open of its own accord, the bolts having been driven back with great force. The saint and his companions then passed through the gate thus speedily opened. And when the king learned what had occurred, he and his councillors were filled~with alarm, and immediately setting out from the palace, he advanced to meet with due respect the blessed man, whom he addressed in the most conciliating and respectful language. And ever after from that day, so long as he lived, the king held this holy and reverend man in very great honour, as was due.
CHAPTER XXXVII. Of a similar unclosing of the Church of the Field of the Two Streams (Tirdaglas, in the county of Tipperary).
UPON another occasion, when the saint was staying a few days in Scotia (Ireland), he went, on invitation, to visit the brethren in the monastery of the Field of the Two Streams (Tirdaglas). But it happened, by some accident, that when he arrived at the church the keys of the oratory could not be found. When the saint observed the brethren lamenting to one another about the keys being astray, and the door locked, he went himself to the door and said, '` The Lord is able, without a key, to open his own house for his servants." At these words, the bolts of the lock were driven back with great force, and the door opened of itself. The saint entered the church before all with universal admiration; and he was afterwards most hospitably entertained by the brethren, and treated by all with the greatest respect and veneration.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. Concerning a certain Peasant who was a beggar, for whom, the Saint made and blessed a stake for killing wild beasts.
AT another time there came to St. Columba a
very poor peasant, who lived in the district which borders the shores of the
Aporic lake (Lochaber). The blessed man, taking pity on the wretched man, who
had not wherewithal to support his wife and family, gave him all the alms he
could afford, and then said to him, "Poor man, take a branch from the
neighbouring wood, and bring it to me quickly." The wretched man brought
the branch as he was directed, and the saint, taking it in his own hand,
sharpened it to a point like a stake, and, blessing it, gave it back to the
destitute man, saying, "Preserve this stake with great care, and it, I
believe, will never hurt men or cattle, but only wild beasts and fishes; and as
long as thou preservest this stake thou shalt never be without abundance of
venison in thy house."
CHAPTER XXXIX. Concerning a Leathern Vessel for holding milk which was carried from its place by the ebb, and brought back again by the return of the tide.
ON another occasion, when the blessed man's
messenger, who was named Lugaid, and surnamed Laitir, was at his command making
preparations for a voyage to Scotia (Ireland), he searched for and found amongst
the sea- going articles that belonged to the saint's ship a leathern vessel for
holding milk. This vessel he immersed in the sea in order to moisten it, and put
upon it stones of considerable size. He then went to the saint, and told him
what he had done with the leathern bottle. The saint smiled and said, "I do
not think that this vessel, which thou sayest thou hast sunk under the waves,
will accompany thee to Hibernia on the present occasion." "Why,"
rejoined Lugaid, "can I not take it with me in the ship?" The saint
replied, "Thou shalt learn the reason tomorrow, as the event will
CHAPTER XL. The Saint's prophecy regarding Libran, of the Rush-ground.
AT another time, while the saint was living in
the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), a certain man of humble birth, who had lately
assumed the clerical habit, sailed over from Scotia (Ireland), and came to the
blessed man's monastery on the island. The saint found him one day sitting alone
in the lodging provided for strangers, and inquired first about his country,
family, and the object of his journey. He replied that he was born in the region
of the Connacht men (Connaught), and that he had undertaken that long and weary
journey to atone for his sins by the pilgrimage. In order to test the depth of
his repentance, the saint then laid down minutely before his eyes the hardship
and labour attending the monastic exercises. "I am prepared," he
replied at once to the saint, "to do everything whatever thou cost bid me,
however hard and however humiliating." Why add more? That same hour he
confessed all his sins, and promised, kneeling on the ground, to fulfil the laws
of penance. The saint said to him, "Arise and take a seat." Then he
thus addressed him as he sat, "Thou must do penance for seven years in the
Ethican land (Tiree); thou and I, with God's blessing, shall survive that period
of seven years." Being comforted by the saint's words, he first gave thanks
to God, and turning afterwards to the saint, asked, " What am I to do with
regard to an oath which I have violated ? for while living in my own country I
murdered a certain man, and afterwards, as guilty of murdering him, I was
confined in prison. But a certain very wealthy blood-relation came to my aid,
and promptly loosing me from my prison-chains, rescued me from the death to
which I was condemned. When I was released, I bound myself by oath to serve that
friend all the days of my life; but I had remained only a short time in his
service, when I felt ashamed of serving man, and very much preferred to devote
myself to God. I therefore left that earthly master, broke the oath, and
departing, reached thee safely, God prospering my journey thus far." The
saint, on seeing him very much grieved over such things, and first prophesying
with respect to him, thus made answer, saying, "At the end of seven years,
as I said to thee, thou shalt come to me here during the forty days of Lent, and
thou shalt approach the altar and partake of the Lucharist at the great Paschal
festival." Why hang longer over words? The penitent stranger in every
respect obeyed the saint's commands; and being sent at that time to the
monastery of the Plain of Lunge (Magh Lunge, in Tiree), and having fully
completed his seven years' penance there, returned to him during Lent, according
to the previous command and prophecy. After celebrating the Paschal solemnity,
and coming at that time to the altar as directed, he came again to the saint to
consult him on the above-mentioned oath. Then the saint gave this prophetic
answer to his inquiry, "That earthly master of thine of whom thou hast
formerly spoken is still living; so are thy father, thy mother, and thy
brethren. Thou must now, therefore, prepare thyself for the voyage." And
while speaking, he drew forth a sword ornamented with carved ivory, and said,
"Take this gift to carry with thee, and offer it to thy master as the price
of thy ransom; but when thou dost, he will on no account accept it, for he has a
virtuous, kindly-disposed wife, and by the influence of her wholesome counsel he
shall that very day, without recompense or ransom, set thee free, unbinding the
girdle round thy captive loins. But though thus relieved from this anxiety, thou
shalt not escape a source of disquietude arising on another hand, for thy
brethren will come round and press thee to make good the support due to thy
father for so long a time which thou hast neglected. Comply thou at once with
their wish, and take in hand dutifully to cherish thine aged father. Though the
duty may, indeed, seem weighty, thou must not be grieved thereat, because thou
shalt soon be relieved of it; for from the day on which thou shalt take charge
of thy father, the end of that same week shall see his death and burial. But
after thy father's burial thy brethren will a second time come and sharply
demand of thee that thou pay the expenses due for thy mother. However, thy
younger brother will assuredly set thee free from this necessity by engaging to
perform in thy stead every duty or obligation which thou owest to thy
CHAPTER XLI. Concerning a certain little Woman who, as a daughter of Eve, was enduring the great and extremely dangerous pains of Childbirth.
ON a certain day during the saint's stay in the
Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), the saint arose from reading, and said with a
smile, "I must now hasten to the oratory to pray to the Lord on behalf of a
poor woman in Hibernia, who at this moment is suffering the pangs of a most
difficult childbirth, and is calling upon the name of Columba. She trusteth that
God will grant her relief from her sufferings through my prayers, because she is
a relation of mine, being lineally descended from the house of my mother's
CHAPTER XLII. Of one Lugne, surnamed Tudida, a Pilot, who lived on the Rechrean island (either Rathlin or Lambay), and whom, as being deformed, his wife hated.
ANOTHER time, when the saint was living on the Rechrean island, a certain man of humble birth came to him and complained of his wife, who, as he said, so hated him, that she would on no account allow him to come near her for marriage rights. The saint on hearing this, sent for the wife, and, so far as he could, began to reprove her on that account, saying: "Why, O woman, dost thou endeavour to withdraw thy flesh from thyself, while the Lord says, 'They shall be two in one flesh'? Wherefore the flesh of thy husband is thy flesh." She answered and said, "Whatever thou shalt require of me I am ready to do, however hard it may be, with this single exception, that thou dost not urge me in any way to sleep in one bed with Lugne. I do not refuse to perform every duty at home, or, if thou dost.command me, even to pass over the seas, or to live in some monastery for women." The saint then said, "What thou dost propose cannot be lawfully done, for thou art bound by the law of the husband as long as thy husband liveth, for it would be impious to separate those whom God has lawfully joined together." Immediately after these words he added: "This day let us three, namely, the husband and his wife and myself, join in prayer to the Lord and in fasting." But the woman replied: "I know it is not impossible for thee to obtain from God, when thou askest them, those things that seem to us either difficult, or even impossible." It is unnecessary to say more. The husband and wife agreed to fast with the saint that day, and the following night the saint spent sleepless in prayer for them. Next day he thus addressed the wife in presence of her husband, and said to her: "O woman, art thou still ready to-day, as thou saidst yesterday, to go away to a convent of women?" "I know now," she answered, "that thy prayer to God for me hath been heard; for that man whom I hated yesterday, I love today; for my heart hath been changed last night in some unknown way--from hatred to love." Why need we linger over it? From that day to the hour of death, the soul of the wife was firmly cemented in affection to her husband, so that she no longer refused those mutual matrimonial rights which she was formerly unwilling to allow.
CHAPTER XLIII. The Prophecy of the blessed man regarding the Voyage of Cormac the grandson of Lethan.
AT another time a soldier of Christ, named
Cormac, about whom we have related a few brief particulars in the first part of
this book, made even a second attempt to discover a desert in the ocean. After
he had gone far from the land over the boundless ocean at full sail, St.
Columba, who was then staying beyond the Dorsal Ridge of Britain (Drumalban),
recommended him in the following terms to King Brude, in the presence of the
ruler of the Orcades (Orkneys): "Some of our brethren have lately set sail,
and are anxious to discover a desert in the pathless sea; should they happen,
after many wanderings, to come to the Orcadian islands, do thou carefully
instruct this chief, whose hostages are in thy hand, that no evil befall them
within his dominions." The saint took care to give this direction, because
he knew that after a few months Cormac would arrive at the Orcades. So it
afterwards came to pass, and to this advice of the holy man Cormac owed his
escape from impending death.
CHAPTER XLIV. How the venerable man made a Journey in a Chariot which was not secured with the proper linch-pins.
AT another time, while the saint was spending a
few days in Scotia (Ireland), some ecclesiastical object required his presence,
and accordingly he ascended a yoked car which he had previously blessed; but
from some unaccountable neglect the requisite linch-pins were not inserted in
the holes at the extremities of the axles. The person who on this occasion
performed the duty of driver in the carriage with St. Columba was Columban, a
holy man, the son of Echud, and founder of that monastery which is called in the
Scotic language Snam luthir (now Slanore, in Granard, county of Longford). The
distance they rode that day was very long, and the jolting severe, yet the
wheels did not come off the axles nor even stir from their proper places,
although, as was mentioned before, there were no linch-pins to secure them. But
divine grace alone so favoured the venerable man that the car in which he was
safely seated proceeded without being upset, or meeting any obstacle to retard
CHAPTER XLV. Of the Rain which, after some months of drought, the Lord bountifully poured out upon the earth in honour of the blessed man.
ABOUT fourteen years before the date at which
we write, there occurred during the spring a very great and long-continued
drought in these marshy regions, insomuch that the threat denounced against
sinners in the Book of Leviticus seemed to impend over the people: "I will
give to you the heaven above as iron, and the earth as brass. Your labour shall
be spent in vain, the ground shall not bring forth her increase, nor the trees
their fruit," etc.
CHAPTER XLVI. Of the unfavourable Winds which, through the intercession of our Saint, were changed into propitious breezes.
OUR belief in the miracles which we have
recorded, but which we did not ourselves see, is confirmed beyond doubt by the
miracles of which we were eye-witnesses; for on three different occasions we saw
unfavourable gales of wind changed unto propitious breezes.
CHAPTER XLVII. Concerning the Plague.
WHAT we are about to relate concerning the
plague, which in our own time twice visited the greater part of the world,
deserves, I think, to be reckoned among not the least of the miracles of St.
Columba. For, not to mention the other and greater countries of Europe,
including Italy, the Roman States, and the Cisalpine provinces of Gaul, with the
States of Spain also, which lie beyond the Pyrenees, these islands of the sea,
Scotia (Ireland) and Britain, have twice been ravaged by a dreadful pestilence
throughout their whole extent, except among the two tribes, the Picts and Scots
of Britain, who are separated from each other by the Dorsal mountains of
Britain. And although neither of these nations was free from those grievous
crimes which generally provoke the anger of the eternal Judge, yet both have
been hitherto patiently borne with and mercifully spared. Now, to what other
person can this favour granted them by God be attributed unless to St. Columba,
whose monasteries lie within the territories of both these people, and have been
regarded by both with the greatest respect up to the present time? But what I am
now to say cannot, I think, be heard without a sigh, that there are many very
stupid people in both countries who, in their ignorance that they owe their
exemption from the plague to the prayers of the saint, ungratefully and wickedly
abuse the patience and the goodness of God. But I often return my most grateful
thanks to God for having, through the intercession of our holy patron, preserved
me and those in our islands from the ravages of the pestilence; and that in
Saxonia also, when I went to visit my friend King Aldfrid, where the plague was
raging and laying waste many of his villages, yet both in its first attack,
immediately after the war of Ecfridus, and in its second, two years
subsequently, the Lord mercifully saved me from danger, though I was living and
moving about in the very midst of the plague. The Divine mercy was also extended
to my companions, not one of whom died of the plague, or was attacked with any