Beatha Cholaim Chille ‘The life of (St) Colum Cille’

  • Early Modern Irish
  • prose, prosimetrum
  • Irish hagiography
Ó Domhnaill (Maghnus)
Ó Domhnaill (Maghnus)
(d. 1563)
anglicised Manus O’Donnell; chief of the Ó Domhnaill family (O’Donnells); lord of Donegal (since 1537); married to Eleanor Fitzgerald; poet and author; compiled Beatha Cholaim Chille.

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(compilation, commissioning)Compiled from a variety of sources by Maghnus Ó Domhnaill (anglicised Manus O'Donnell).
  • Early Modern Irish
first half of the 16th century
prose, prosimetrum (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
Related: Ná sír fis do tsáegail shúaillNá sír fis do tsáegail shúaill

Irish religious poem (13 qq) addressed to one Andach (qq. 2, 6 and 11; cf. andach ’iniquity‘?), seemingly on what it would mean to know the length of one’s life-time. It is found in Laud Misc. 615, where it is attributed to Colum Cille in an answer given to Annach mac Duib Innsi meic Caibdenaig, descendant of Níall Noígíallaich.

Tromdámh GuaireTromdámh Guaire
Associated items
Fionn’s prophecyFionn’s prophecyBenaidh bhar cluig ar ConallBenaidh bhar cluig ar ConallIrish poem (3 qq) attributed to Colum Cille.
Cetracha sacart a línCetracha sacart a línA scrap of early Irish verse (1q only) cited the beginning of the preface (remfhocul) to Amra Choluim Chille. While in LU it occurs in the upper margin of the first page of the preface, with no explicit relationship being made to the text, it is more fully integrated into the main body of narrative in other manuscripts. The stanza gives a list of churchmen, together with their numbers, which in the context of the prose preface, would seem to refer to those who travelled with Colum Cille at the time of the convention of Druim Cetta.Coinne Mongain is Coluim caimCoinne Mongain is Coluim caim

Irish poem on Colum Cille, attributed to Mura.

Fil súil n-glaisFil súil n-glaisIs olc atá a nÉri anochtIs olc atá a nÉri anocht

Irish prophetic poem ascribed to Cairell mac Curnáin.

Loch Febail Coluim CilleLoch Febail Coluim CilleIrish poem (17 qq) attributed to Baíthín mac Cúanach (i.e. of Tech Baithín/Taghboyne).
M'oenurán dam isin sliabhM'oenurán dam isin sliabhMellach lem bith i n-ucht ailinnMellach lem bith i n-ucht ailinnLate Middle Irish poem (12 qq) ascribed in one MS to Colum Cille.
Oibind beith ar Beinn EdairOibind beith ar Beinn EdairMiddle Irish poem (24 qq) ascribed to Colum Cille, on Benn Étair.
Robad mellach a meic mo DéRobad mellach a meic mo DéMiddle Irish poem attributed to Colum Cille.Tréide as dile lem fo-rácbusTréide as dile lem fo-rácbusShort, late Middle Irish poem on the three places dear to Colum Cille.


Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography

Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography


Colum Cille
Colum Cille
(fl. 6th century)
founder and abbot of Iona, Kells (Cenandas) and Derry (Daire).

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§§ 1-21. Foreword

Foreword by Maghnus Ó Domhnaill

§§ 21-52. The birth of Colum Cille

§§ 53-67. The childhood of Colum Cille

§§ 68-76. The studies of Colum Cille

§§ 77-92. Colum Cille in Doire

§§ 93-95. Colum Cille in Tír Chonaill

§§ 96-98. Colum Cille in Tethba

§§ 99-108. Colum Cille in Leinster and elsewhere

§§ 109-117. Colum Cille in Tír Chonaill and Torach

§§ 118-149. Various miracles and prophecies

§§ 118-132. Miracles and prophecies

§§ 133-140. The blessings and curses of Colum Cille

§§ 141-149. Miracles, prophecies and revelations

§§ 150-166. Colum Cille in the west of Ireland

§§ 167-201. Colum Cille's exile from Ireland

§§ 202-315. The life of Colum Cille in Iona

§§ 315-355. The assembly of Druim Cet

§§ 355-356. The voyage of Colum Cille’s clerics

§§ 356-377. Last days of Colum Cille

§§ 377-394. Colum Cille and other saints

§§ 394-433. The saint's virtues and the miracles after his death


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] OʼKelleher, Andrew, and Gertrude Schoepperle, Betha Colaim Chille: Life of Columcille. Compiled by Manus O'Donnell in 1532. Edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, University of Illinois Bulletin, 15.48, Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois, 1918.
Internet Archive: <link>, <link>, <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link>, <link>
Edition based on a photograph of Rawl. B 514 “kindly lent us by Dr. Kuno Meyer”. In a footnote, it is remarked that there “is a good copy in the Franciscan Convent, Dublin” (A 8 or A 23?), but it appears not to have been consulted for this edition.
Series in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie:
[ed.] [tr.] Henebry, Richard, “The Life of Columb Cille”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 3 (1901): 516–571.
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 1–64
[ed.] [tr.] Henebry, Richard, “Betha Coluimb Cille (continuation)”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 4 (1903): 276–331.
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 65–111
[ed.] [tr.] Henebry, Richard, “Betha Coluimb Cille (continuation)”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 5 (1905): 26–87.
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 112–156
[ed.] [tr.] Kelleher, Andrew, “Betha Coluimb Chille”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 9 (1913): 242–287, 340 (corrigenda).
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 157–203
[ed.] [tr.] Kelleher, Andrew, “Betha Coluimb Chille (continuation)”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 10 (1915): 228–265.
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 204–232
[ed.] [tr.] Kelleher, Andrew, “Betha Coluimb Chille (continuation)”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 11 (1917): 114–147.
Internet Archive: <link>
§§ 233–261
[tr.] Lacey, Brian [ed.], The life of Colum Cille, by Manus O’Donnell, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998.

Secondary sources (select)

Ó Súilleabháin, Pádraig, “Beatha Cholaim Chille: an chóip atá i LS A 8”, Celtica 11 (1976): 203–213.
Kenney, James F., “Chapter V: The monastic churches: II. The churches of the sixth to ninth centuries; general treatises”, in: James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: an introduction and guide. Volume 1: ecclesiastical, Revised ed., 11, New York: Octagon, 1966. 372–485.
442 [id. 221.]
Sharpe, Richard, “Maghnus Ó Domhnaill’s source for Adomnán’s Vita S. Columbae and other vitae”, Celtica 21 (1990): 604–607.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
January 2012, last updated: January 2024