Loch Ness Historical - The Life of St Columba

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The Life of St Columba

St. Adomnan, Vita Sancti Columbae c. 690 AD

By courtesy of Stadtbibliothek, Schaffliausen.

Translations by Anderson and Anderson 1961 

Adomnan was the ninth Abbot of Iona from 679 until his death in 704. Since Columba died in 597 AD, the accounts were written nearly a hundred years later.

The following account is attributed to the year 565 AD 

"Concerning a certain water beast driven away by the power of the blessed man's prayer.  

Also at another time, when the blessed man was for a lumber of days in the province of the Picts, he had to cross the river Nes [Ness]. When lie reached its bank, he saw a poor fellow being buried by other inhabitants; and the buriers said that, while swimming not long before, he had been seized and most savagely bitten by a water beast. Some men, going to his rescue in a wooden boat, though too late, had put out hooks and caught hold of his wretched corpse. When the blessed man heard this, he ordered notwithstanding that one of his companions should swim out and bring back to him, by sailing, a boat that stood on the opposite bank. Hearing this order of the holy and memorable man, Lugne mocu‑Min obeyed without delay, and putting off his clothes, excepting his tunic, plunged into the water. But the monster, whose appetite had earlier been not so much sated as whetted for prey, lurked in the depth of the river. Feeling the water above disturbed by Lugne's swimming, it suddenly swam up to the surface, and with gaping mouth and with great roaring rushed towards the man swimming in the middle of the stream. While all that were there, barbarians and even the brothers, were struck down with extreme terror, the blessed man, who was watching, raised his holy hand and drew the saving sign of the cross in the empty air; and then, invoking the name of God, he commanded the savage beast, and said: "You will go no further. Do not touch the man; turn back speedily". Then, hearing this command of the saint, the beast, as if pulled back with ropes, fled terrified in swift retreat; although it had before approached so close to Lugne as he swam that there was no more than the length of one short pole between man and beast.Then seeing that the beast had withdrawn and that their fellow- soldier Lugne had returned to them unharmed and safe, in the boat, the brothers with great amazement glorified God in the blessed man. And also the pagan barbarians who were there at the time, impelled by the magnitude of this miracle that they themselves had seen, magnified the God of the Christians."  

Another account, pointed out by J. Gratton, relates to an incident while Columba was living on the island of Iona. It may describe an "acid rain" episode including the deposition of fluorine caused by an Icelandic volcanic eruption.  

While the saint was living in the island of lo.he saw a heavy rain cloud that had risen from the sea in the north, on a clear day. Watching it as it rose, the saint said to one of his monks "This cloud will be very hurtful to men and beasts; and on this day it will quickly move across and in the evening drop pestiferous rain upon Ireland from the stream that is called Ailbine to Ath‑cliath (Dublin) and it will cause severe and festering sores to form on human bodies and the udders of animals. Men and cattle who suffer from them, afflicted with that poisonous disease will be sick even to death". Following the saint's instruction SiInan arrived, with the Lord's help, at the place aforesaid; and found the people of that district devastated by the pestiferous rain falling upon them from the cloud.'

This account, pointed out by S.A. Thorpe, may have possible relevance to the remarkably dynamic physical properties of Loch Ness.

"On the appointed day as he had intended the Saint came to the long lake of the river Ness, followed by a large crowd. Then the magicians began to exalt, because they saw a great mist brought up, and a stormy adverse wind ... so our Columba, seeing that the elements were being roused to fury against him, called upon Christ the Lord. He entered the boat, and while the sailors hesitated, he himself, more steadfast, ordered the sail to be raised against the wind. When this was done, and with the whole crowd looking on, the ship moved with extraordinary speed, sailing against the contrary wind"


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St Columba and the Loch Ness Monster