Betha Adamnáin ‘The Life of Adomnán’

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Irish hagiography
Early Middle Irish Life of Adomnán, abbot of Iona (d. 704), written about the middle of the tenth century.
First words (prose)
  • Accinge sicut uir lumbos tuos
  • Middle Irish
  • early Middle Irish

According to the latest editors, Herbert and Ó Riain, the text was written about 950 (968?), at a time when the centre of Columba's familia moved from Iona to Kells (Co. Meath).

Origin: Ireland
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Cenandas, Cenannas ... Kells
County Meath
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prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Associated items
Mór do ingantu do-gníMór do ingantu do-gní

Two elegiac stanzas attributed to Adomnán and preserved in his Irish Life.


Irish hagiographyIrish hagiography



(fl. c.628–704)
Adomnán mac Rónáin was abbot of Iona (r. 679–704) and author of the Latin Life of St Columba and an account of the holy places of the Near East (De locis sanctis). He is credited with the proclamation of the Lex innocentium or Cáin Adomnáin at the Synod of Birr.
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Primary sources

[ed.] [tr.] Herbert, Máire, and Pádraig Ó Riain, Betha Adamnáin: The Irish life of Adamnán, Irish Texts Society, 54, London: Irish Texts Society, 1988.
CELT – edition: <link>
[ed.] Best, R. I. [ed.], “Betha Adamnáin”, in: Osborn Bergin, R. I. Best, Kuno Meyer, and J. G. OʼKeeffe (eds), Anecdota from Irish manuscripts, vol. 2, Halle and Dublin, 1908. 10–20.
Celtic Digital Initiative – PDF: <link> Internet Archive – vols 1-5: <link>
[tr.] Joynt, Maud, “The Life of Adamnan”, The Celtic Review 5:18 (October 1908, 1908–1909): 97–107.
Internet Archive: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Wadden, Patrick, “Trácht Romra and the Northumbrian episode in Betha Adamnáin”, Ériu 62 (2012): 101–111.
Carey, John, “Varieties of supernatural contact in the Life of Adomnán”, in: John Carey, Máire Herbert, and Pádraig Ó Riain (eds), Studies in Irish hagiography: saints and scholars, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001. 49–62.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
July 2011, last updated: June 2023