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St.Columba's monastery on the sacred Isle of Iona.jpg

St Adomnan


St Adomnan (Eunan) 740AD 

23rd September

A member of the family of St Columba and ninth Abbot of Iona Abbey, this Saint is most notable for his Life of St Columba which we gain most of our knowledge of St Columba from. It is also an excellent source of information on the Scottish church at the time - especially Gaelic monastic life and of the different Pictish groups. Although it is thought that an earlier Vita of St Columba by St Cummine (Cumin) the White was used or inserted into Adomnan’s history.

St Adomnan is famous is Ireland for the ‘Law of the Innocents’ - agreed in Tara stating that no women, children or clergy could be used in war or taken captive, surely an ancient precursor to the Geneva Convention! He is also well known for his promotion of the Dionysiac Easter dating system seeking firstly to persuade his monks in Iona to drop the older Latercus system - a system that developed in Southern France; and then in Ireland as well. It was on this issue that the famous Synod of Whitby in 664AD had been called to bring clarity to a confusing situation, not least in Northumbria itself where 3 different forms of dating Easter was used! At this time Rome was promoting the Dionysiac as the preferred system for all the Churches.

It might be worth just mentioning here a little of what the controversy was all about. Until the Nicean Council in the 4th Century Christians would date Easter using the Jewish Passover which was was the 14th day of Nisan, the first Lunar month of the Jewish New year. Eventually Christians began to challenge this thinking stating the Jewish authorities had begun to err and they needed their own system with the Resurrection celebrated on the first Sunday after Passover. Various systems developed across the Christian world, the Dionysiac and Latercus being only 2 of many others. Eventually the Dionysiac system would win out, with Ireland, Briton and Iona eventually accepting it. For Adomnan, who had unsuccessfully tried to convince the Ionan monks to change there mind and resulting in him having to leave Iona - he would never see it dying ten years before the full acceptance.

St Adomnan was widely venerated throughout Scotland, no doubt due to the influence Iona had over Christianity in Scotland. Some sources say he spent time near Loch Tay in Dull near Aberfeldy where there was a church dedicated to him and evidence of early monastic community. It is said he died here but we know he was buried originally in Iona before his remains moving back to Ireland. He is also dedicated in the following places and I am quoting here from Michael Barratts OSB book A Calendar of Scottish Saints:

Aboyne and Forvie (parish of Slains) in Aberdeenshire ; Abriachan in Inverness-shire ; Forglen or Teunan Kirk in Banffshire ; Tannadice in Forfarshire ; Kileunan (parish of Kilkerran) in Kintyre ; Kinneff in Kincardineshire ; the Island of Sanda ; Dull, Grandtully and Blair Athole in Perthshire the latter place was once known as Kilmaveonaig, from the quaint little chapel and burying ground of the saint. There were chapels in his honour at Campsie in Stir lingshire and Dalmeny in Linlithgow. At Aboyne are " Skeulan Tree" and Skeulan Well," at Tannadice " St. Arnold s Seat," at Campsie " St. Adamnan s Acre," at Kinneff " St. Arnty s Cell." At Dull a fair was formerly held on his feast-day (old style) ; it was called Feille Eonan. Another fair at Blair Athole was known as Feill Espic Eoin (" Bishop Eunan s Fair " though St. Adamnan was an abbot only) ; it has been abolished in modern times. His well is still to be seen in the Manse garden there, and down the glen a fissure in the rock is called " St. Ennan s Foot mark." There was a "St. Adamnan s Croft" in Glenurquhart (Inverness-shire), but the site is no longer known. Ardeonaig, near Loch Tay ; Ben Eunaich, Dalmally ; and Damsey (Adamnan s Isle) in Orkney, take their names from this saint.

So as you can see he was popular! But if you really want to get close visit Insh Church just South of Aviemore near Kincraig where on top of ‘Tom Eunan’ - Adomnan’s Mound sits a small beautiful church which houses a bell that for many years was attributed to St Adomnan and a basin that is probably an ancient font.

It is thought now the bell is from the 9th or 10th century but there were many colourful stories surrounding it (as befitting an Ecclesial bell!) including how if anyone rang it one of your family would die an unpleasant death, if it was dipped in water the water would save a woman from death after child birth and how when it was taken away once down to Perthshire it came ringing back up through the glens. A most awkward bell anyway!

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