Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Cnoc nan Aingeal

St. Columba on the Hill of Angels, from a drawing by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
St. Columba on the Hill of Angels, from a drawing by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.

Another time also, while the blessed man was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now lona), he made this known to the assembled brethren with very great earnestness, saying, “To-day I wish to go alone to the western plain of this island; let none of you therefore follow me.” They obeyed, and he went alone, as he desired. But a brother, who was cunning, and of a prying disposition, proceeded by another road, and secretly placed himself on the summit of a certain little hill which overlooked the plain, because he was very anxious to learn the blessed man’s motive for going out alone. While the spy on the top of the hill was looking upon him as he stood on a mound in the plain, with arms extended upwards, and eyes raised to heaven in prayer, then, strange to tell, behold a wonderful scene presented itself, which that brother, as I think not without the leave of God, witnessed with his own eyes from his place on the neighbouring hill, that the saint’s name and the reverence due to him might afterwards, even against his wishes, be more widely diffused among the people, through the vision thus vouchsafed. For holy angels, the citizens of the heavenly country, clad in white robes and flying with wonderful speed, began to stand around the saint whilst he prayed; and after a short converse with the blessed man, that heavenly host, as if feeling itself detected, flew speedily back again to the highest heavens. The blessed man himself also, after his meeting with the angels, returned to the monastery, and calling the brethren together a second time, asked, with no little chiding and reproof, which of them was guilty of violating his command. When all were declaring they did not know at all of the matter, the brother, conscious of his inexcusable transgression, and no longer able to conceal his guilt, fell on his knees before the saint in the midst of the assembled brethren, and humbly craved forgiveness. The saint, taking him aside, commanded him under heavy threats, as he knelt, never, during the life of the blessed man, to disclose to any person even the least part of the secret regarding the angels’ visit. It was, therefore, after the saint’s departure from the body that the brother related that manifestation of the heavenly host, and solemnly attested its truth. Whence, even to this day, the place where the angels assembled is called by a name that beareth witness to the event that took place in it; this may be said to be in Latin “Colliculus Angelorum” and is in Scotic Cnoc Angel (now called Sithean Mor). Hence, therefore, we must notice, and even carefully inquire, into the fact how great and of what kind these sweet visits of angels to this blessed man were, which took place mostly during the winter nights, when he was in watching and prayer in lonely places while others slept. These were no doubt very numerous, and could in no way come to the knowledge of other men. Though some of these which happened by night or by day might perhaps be discovered by one means or another, these must have been very few compared with the angelic visions, which, of course, could be known by nobody. The same observation applies in the same way to other bright apparitions hitherto investigated by few, which shall be afterwards described.

Vita Columbæ, Lib. iii. cap. xvii.

Towards Alba of the Ravens

Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones' The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.
Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones’ The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.

This is a poem of Columkille’s, or at least ascribed to him. It is in very irregular metre, or rather changes its metre several times. The literal translation of the first few verses is as follows:–

Delightful to be on Ben Edar (the Hill of Howth) before going over the sea, white, white; the dashing of the wave against its face, the bareness of its shore and its border.

Delightful to be on Ben Edar after coming over the white-bosomed sea, to be rowing one’s little coracle, ochone! on the swift-waved shore.

How rapid the speed of my coracle, and its back turned to Derry! It is misery to me, my errand over the high-sea, travelling towards Alba of the ravens.

My foot in my musical little coracle, my heart pitiable, sorrowful. Weak is the man that cannot lead. Blind totally is every ignorant one.

There is a grey eye that looks back upon Erin, but it shall not see during life the men of Erin nor her women.

My sight over the brine I stretch, from the planking of stout oak. Large is the tear of my soft grey eye, when I look back towards Erin, etc.

Part of this poem may very well be Columkille’s own, but part is as evidently not his. The end of it was probably written by one of the monks of Derry, whose monastery, in after times, almost equalled in fame that of Iona itself.

The verse about the soft grey eye is found in the Leabhar na h’Uidhre in the preface to the Amra of Columkille which shows its antiquity.

Moleesha was the Saint who imposed it as a penalty upon Columkille that he should go into exile and there convert as many souls as there were men slain in the battle of Cooldrevna [Cúl Dreimhne] fought on his account.

Columcille Sang.
(From the Irish.)

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
Before going over the white, white sea;
The dash of the wave as it launches its crest
On the wind-beaten shore is delight to me.

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
When safely come over the white sea foam;
The coracle cleaving her way to the West
Through the sport of the waves as she beats for home.

Too swiftly my coracle flies on her way,
From Derry I mournfully turned her prow;
I grieve at the errand which sends me to-day
To the land of the ravens, to Alba, now.

In my good little coracle, tuneful and light,
I have planted my foot, but my heart is sore,
For blind are the ignorant, blind as the night,
And weak is the man who shall lead no more.

How swiftly we travel, there is a grey eye
Looks back upon Erin, but it no more
Shall see, while the stars shall endure in the sky,
Her women, her men, or her stainless shore.

From the plank of the oak where in sorrow I lie
I am straining my sight through the water and wind;
And large is the tear from the soft grey eye
Looking back on the land that it leaves behind.

To Erin alone is my memory given,
To Meath and to Munster my wild thoughts flow,
To the shores of Moy-linny, the plains of Loch Levin,
And the beautiful land the Ultonians know.

In the East there is many a warrior tall,
But many a sickness and plague and care,
And many a heart that is hardened to all,
With scantness of raiment and food, to bear

But ah! in the West how the apple is fair,
How many a tanist, how many a king,
How many a sloe does the thorn-tree bear,
In the acorned oaks how the young birds sing!

Melodious her clerics, melodious her birds,
Her children are gentle, her seniors wise;
Her men are illustrious, truthful in words,
Her women have virtues for love to prize.

And Brendan the truthful is there in the West,
And Colom, descendant of Crivhan is he;
And there in the West shall be Baithin the blest,
And there in the West shall Adamnan be.

Go carry my words to the men that I name,
Unto Comgall the priest of eternal life,
And carry my thoughts upon wings of flame
To the king of Emania the bold in strife.

I give thee my blessing to carry from here,
Take this benediction over the sea,
One seven-fold half upon Erin the dear,
One half upon Alba the same to be.

To the nobles that gem the bright Isle of the Gael
Carry this benediction over the sea;
And bid them not credit Moleesha’s tale,
And bid them not credit his words of me.

Were it not for the word of Moleesha’s mouth,
At the cross of Ahamlish that sorrowful day,
I now should be warding from north and from south,
Disease and distemper from Erin away.

Oh, carry my blessing away to the West,
For my heart in my bosom is broken, I fail;
Should death of a sudden now pierce my breast,
I should die of the love that I bear the Gael.

The Gael, oh! the Gael, how the sound of that name
When I speak it can banish my ruth and my rue;
Belovèd is Cuimin of fair-haired fame,
Beloved are Cainneach and Comgall too.

And, oh! were the tributes of Alba mine,
From shore unto centre, from centre to sea,
The site of one house, to be marked by a line,
In the midst of fair Derry were dearer to me.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For the treasures that peace and that purity lend;
For the hosts of bright angels that circle it round,
Protecting its borders from end to end.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For its peace and its beauty I gave it my love;
Each leaf of the oaks around Derry is found
To be crowded with angels from heaven above.

My Derry, my Derry, my little oak grove,
My dwelling, my home, and my own little cell;
May God the Eternal, in heaven above,
Send woe to thy foes and defend thee well.

Belovèd are Durrow and Derry to me,
And Drumhome of the fruits of the rich ripe hue
Belovèd Raphoe in its purity,
And Surd and Cenannas, I love them too.

And dear to my heart in the western land,
Is the thought of Loch Foyle where the cool waves pour,
And the Bay of Drumcliff on Cúlcinné’s strand,
Delightful the form of its sloping shore.

Delightful it is, and the salt salt main,
Where the sea-birds scream o’er the water blue,
On my coming from Derry afar in pain,
How quiet it is, and delightful too.

— Douglas Hyde (ed.), The Three Sorrows of Storytelling and Ballads of St. Columkille, London, 1895.

To Confound the Druids

St. Columba, Bishop's House, Iona.
St. Columba, Bishop’s House, Iona.

By virtue of his prayer, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he healed several persons suffering under various diseases; and he alone, by the assistance of God, expelled from this our island, which now has the primacy, innumerable hosts of malignant spirits, whom he saw with his bodily eyes assailing himself, and beginning to bring deadly distempers on his monastic brotherhood. Partly by mortification, and partly by a bold resistance, he subdued, with the help of Christ, the furious rage of wild beasts. The surging waves, also, at times rolling mountains high in a great tempest, became quickly at his prayer quiet and smooth, and his ship, in which he then happened to be, reached the desired haven in a perfect calm.

When returning from the country of the Picts, where he had been for some days, he hoisted his sail when the breeze was against him to confound the Druids, and made as rapid a voyage as if the wind had been favourable. On other occasions, also, contrary winds were at his prayers changed into fair. In that same country, he took a white stone from the river, and blessed it for the working of certain cures, and that stone, contrary to nature, floated like an apple when placed in water. This divine miracle was wrought in the presence of King Brude and his household. In the same country, also, he performed a still greater miracle, by raising to life the dead child of an humble believer, and restoring him in life and vigour to his father and mother. At another time, while the blessed man was yet a young deacon in Hibernia, residing with the holy bishop Findbarr, the wine required for the Sacred Mysteries failed, and he changed by his prayer pure water into true wine. An immense blaze of heavenly light was on many and wholly distinct occasions seen by some of the brethren to surround him in the light of day, as well as in the darkness of the night. He was also favoured with the sweet and most delightful society of bright hosts of the holy angels. He often saw, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, the souls of some just men carried by angels to the highest heavens. And the reprobates too he very frequently beheld carried to hell by demons. He very often foretold the future deserts, sometimes joyful, and sometimes sad, of many persons while they were still living in mortal flesh. In the dreadful crash of wars he obtained from God, by the virtue of prayer, that some kings should be conquered, and others come off victorious. And such a grace as this he enjoyed, not only while alive in this world, but even after his departure from the flesh, as God, from whom all the saints derive their honour, has made him still a victorious and most valiant champion in battle.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book I, Chapter i.

In Fidei Florulentia

Prologue of St. Adomnán’s Vita sancti Columbæ, St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 555.
Prologue of St. Adomnán’s Vita sancti Columbæ, St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 555.

Meminerintque regnum dei non in eloquentiae exuberantia sed in fidei florulentia constare.

Let them remember that the kingdom of God inheres not with the exuberance of rhetoric, but in the blossoming of faith. St. Adomnán’s Preface to the Vita Columbæ.

Alta Proceritas

Steel engraving and enhancement of the Great Seal of Alexander II, King of Scots, from The Pictorial History of Scotland from the Roman Invasion to the close of the Jacobite Rebellion. A.D. 79-1746, Volume I, (London, 1859), facing page 68.
Steel engraving and enhancement of the Great Seal of Alexander II, King of Scots, from The Pictorial History of Scotland from the Roman Invasion to the close of the Jacobite Rebellion. A.D. 79-1746, Volume I, (London, 1859), facing page 68.

King Alexander, then lying in Kiararey-sound, dreamed a dream, and thought three men came to him. He thought one of them was in royal robes, but very stern, ruddy in countenance, somewhat thick, and of middling size. Another seemed of a slender make, but active, and of all men the most engaging, and majestic. The third again, was of very great stature, but his features were distorted, and of all the rest he was the most unsightly. They addressed their speech to the King, and enquired whether he meant to invade the Hebrides. Alexander thought he answered that he certainly proposed to subject the islands. The Genius of the vision bade him go back; and told him no other measure would turn out to his advantage. The King related his dream; and many advised him to return. But the King would not; and a little after he was seized with a disorder, and died. The Scottish army then broke up; and they removed the King’s body to Scotland. The Hebridians say that the men whom the King saw in his sleep were St Olave King of Norway, St Magnus Earl of Orkney, and St Columba.

The Norwegian Account of Haco’s Expedition Against Scotland,
Rev. James Johnstone, A.M., pp. 10-13.

Illuminated manuscript showing Uther Pendragon, Aethelbert, King Arthur, and Oswald of Northumbria, from Matthew Paris' Epitome of Chronicles.
Uther Pendragon, Aethelbert, King Arthur, and Oswald of Northumbria, from Matthew Paris’ Epitome of Chronicles.

Huius talis honorificentiae viro honorabili ab Omnipotente caelitus collatae etiam unum proferemus exemplum, quod Ossualdo regnatori Saxonico, pridie quam contra Catlonem Britonum regem fortissimum praeliaretur, ostensum erat. Nam cum idem Ossualdus rex esset in procinctu belli castra metatus, quadam die in suo papilione supra pulvillum dormiens, sanctum Columbam in visu videt forma coruscantem angelica; cuius alta proceritas vertice nubes tangere videbatur.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book I, Chapter i.

Eructavit Cor Meum Verbum Bonum

The sound of the Voice of Columbkille
Great its sweetness above all clerics:
To the end of fifteen hundred paces,
Though great the distance, it was distinctly heard.

— From the Irish Life of St. Columba in the Leabhar Breac.

I must not pass over another well-authenticated story, told, indeed, by those who heard it, regarding the voice of the blessed man in singing the psalms. The venerable man, when singing in the church with the brethren, raised his voice so wonderfully that it was sometimes heard four furlongs off, that is five hundred paces, and sometimes eight furlongs, that is one thousand paces. But what is stranger still: to those who were with him in the church, his voice did not seem louder than that of others; and yet at the same time persons more than a mile away heard it so distinctly that they could mark each syllable of the verses he was singing, for his voice sounded the same whether far or near. It is however admitted, that this wonderful character in the voice of the blessed man was but rarely observable, and even then it could never happen without the aid of the Holy Ghost.

A hillfort on the summit of Craig Phadrig, a forested hill on the western edge of Inverness, is supposed to have been the base of the Pictish King Brude (Bridei mac Maelchon).
A hillfort on the summit of Craig Phadrig, a forested hill on the western edge of Inverness, is supposed to have been the base of the Pictish King Brude (Bridei mac Maelchon).

Nam ipse Sanctus cum paucis fratribus extra regis munitionem dum vespertinales Dei laudes ex more celebraret, quidam Magi, ad eos propius accedentes, in quantum poterant, prohibere conabantur, ne de ore ipsorum divinae laudis sonus inter Gentiles audiretur populos.

But another story concerning the great and wonderful power of his voice should not be omitted. The fact is said to have taken place near the fortress of King Brude. When the saint himself was chanting the evening hymns with a few of the brethren, as usual, outside the king’s fortifications, some Druids, coming near to them, did all they could to prevent God’s praises being sung in the midst of a pagan nation. On seeing this, the saint began to sing the 44th Psalm, and at the same moment so wonderfully loud, like pealing thunder, did his voice become, that king and people were struck with terror and amazement.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book I, Chapter xxxxvii.

Great and Singular Merits

The Cathach of St. Columba.
The Cathach of St. Columba.

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.

These two miracles, though wrought in matters of small moment, and shown in opposite elements namely, fire and water, redound to the honour of the blessed man, and prove his great and singular merits before the Lord.

Vita Columbæ, Book II, Chapter VIII.

Annales Cambriae

Page view from the Harleian manuscript of the Annals of Wales; British Library.
Page view from the Harleian manuscript of the Annals of Wales; British Library.
447 ‡ Days as dark as night.‡
453 Easter altered on the Lord’s Day by Pope Leo, Bishop of Rome.
454 St. Brigid is born.
457 St. Patrick goes to the Lord.
458 St. David is born in the thirtieth year after Patrick left Menevia.
468 The death of Bishop Benignus.
501 Bishop Ebur rests in Christ, he was 350 years old.
516 The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.
521 St. Columba is born. The death of St. Brigid.
537 The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.
544 The sleep [death] of Ciaran.
547 The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. ‡Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.‡
558 The death of Gabrán, son of Dungart.
562 Columba went to Britain.
565 ‡The voyage of Gildas to Ireland.‡
569 ‡The ‘Synod of Victory’ was held between the Britons.‡
570 Gildas ‡wisest of Britons‡ died.
573 The battle of Arfderydd ‡between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.‡
574 The sleep [death] of Brendan of Birr.
580 Gwrgi and Peredur ‡sons of Elifert‡ died.
584 Battle against the Isle of Man and the burial of Daniel of the Bangors.
589 The conversion of Constantine [king of Britain] to the Lord.
594 ‡Aethelbert reigned in England.‡
595 The death of Columba.
The death of king Dunod ‡son of Pabo.‡
Augustine and Mellitus converted the English to Christ.
601 The synod of Urbs Legionis [Chester].
Gregory died in Christ and also bishop David of Moni Iudeorum.
606 The burial of bishop Cynog.
607 The death of Aidan son of Gabrán
612 The death of Kentigern and bishop Dyfrig.
613 The battle of Caer Legion [Chester]. And there died Selyf son of Cynan. And Iago son of Beli slept [died].
616 Ceredig died.
617 Edwin begins his reign.
624 The sun is covered [eclipsed].
626 Edwin is baptized, and Rhun son of Urien baptized him.
627 Belin dies.
629 The beseiging of king Cadwallon in the island of Glannauc.
630 Gwyddgar comes and does not return. On the Kalends of January the battle of Meigen; and there Edwin was killed with his two sons; but Cadwallon was the victor.
631 The battle of Cantscaul in which Cadwallon fell.
632 The slaughter of the [river] Severn and the death of Idris.
644 The battle of Cogfry in which Oswald king of the Northmen and Eawa king of the Mercians fell.
645 The hammering of the region of Dyfed, when the monastery of David was burnt.
649 ‡Slaughter in Gwent.‡
650 The rising of a star.
656 The slaughter of Campus Gaius.
657 Penda killed.
658 Oswy came and took plunder.
661 Cummine the tall died.
662 Brocmail ‡the tusked ‡ dies.
665 The first celebration of Easter among the Saxons. The second battle of Badon. Morgan dies.
669 Oswy, king of the Saxons, dies.
676 A star of marvelous brightness was seen shining throughout the whole world.
682 A great plague in Britain, in which Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon dies.
683 A plague ‡was‡ in Ireland.
684 A great earthquake in the Isle of Man.
689 The rain turned to blood in Britain, and ‡in Ireland‡ milk and butter turned to blood.
704 Aldfrith king of the Saxons died. The sleep of Adomnán.
714 Night was as bright as day. Pepin the elder [actually Pepin II, of Heristal], king of the Franks, died in Christ.
717 Osred king of the Saxons dies.
718 The consecration of the church of the archangel Michael ‡on mount Gargano.‡
721 A hot summer.
722 Beli son of Elffin dies. And the battle of Hehil among the Cornish, the battle of Garth Maelog, the battle of Pencon among the south Britons, and the Britons were the victors in those three battles.
728 The battle of mount Carno.
735 Bede the priest sleeps.
736 Oengus king of the Picts died.
750 Battle between the Picts and the Briton, that is the battle of Mocetauc. And their king Talorgan is killed by the Britions.
754 Rhodri king of the Britons dies.
757 Ethelbalk king of the Saxons dies.
760 A battle between the Britons and the Saxons, that is the battle of Hereford and Dyfnwal son of Tewdwr dies.
768 Easter is changed among the Britons ‡on the Lord’s day ‡, Elfoddw, servant of God, emending it.
775 Ffernfael son of Ithael dies.
776 Cinaed king of the Picts dies.
777 Abbot Cuthbert dies.
778 The devastation of the South Britons by Offa.
784 The devastation of Britain by Offa in the summer.
796 ‡Devastation by Rheinwg son of Offa ‡ The first coming of the gentiles [Norsemen] among the southern Irish.
797 Offa king of the Mercians and Maredudd king of the Demetians die, and the battle of Rhuddlan.
798 Caradog king of Gwynedd is killed by the Saxons.
807 Arthen king of Ceredigion dies. ‡Solar eclipse‡
808 Rhain king of the Demetians and Cadell ‡king‡ of Powys die.
809 Elfoddw archbishop in the Gwynedd region went to the Lord.
810 ‡The moon covered ‡. Mynyw burnt. ‡Death of cattle in Britain.‡
811 Owain son of Maredudd dies.
812 The fortress of Degannwy is struck by lightning and burnt.
813 Battle between Hywel ‡and Cynan. Hywel‡ was the victor.
814 There was great thunder and it caused many fires. Tryffin son of Rhain died. And Gruffydd son of Cyngen is killed by treachery by his brother Elisedd after an interval of two months. Hywel triumphed over the island of Mona and he drove Cynan from there with a great loss of his own army.
816 Hywel was again expelled from Mona. Cynan the king dies. ‡Saxons invaded the mountains of Eryri and the kingdom of Rhufoniog‡.
817 The battle of Llan-faes.
818 ‡Cenwulf devastated the Dyfed region.‡
822 The fortress of Degannwy is destroyed by the Saxons and they took the kingdom of Powys into their own control.
825 Hywel dies.
831 ‡Lunar eclipse.‡ Laudent died and Sadyrnfyw Hael of Mynyw died.
840 Nobis the bishop ruled Mynyw.
842 Idwallon dies.
844 Merfyn dies. The battle of Cetill.
848 The battle of Ffinnant. Ithael king of Gwent was killed by the men of Brycheiniog.
849 Meurig was killed by Saxons.
850 Cynin is killed by the gentiles.
853 Mona laid waste by black gentiles.
856 Kenneth king of the Picts died. And Jonathan prince of Abergele dies.
860 Catgueithen was expelled.
864 Duda laid Glywysing waste.
865 Cian of Nanhyfer died.
866 The city of York was laid waste, that is the battle with the black gentiles.
869 The battle of Bryn Onnen.
870 The fortress of Alt Clud was broken by the gentiles.
871 Gwgon king of Ceredigion was drowned.
873 Nobis ‡the bishop‡ and Meurig die. The battle of Bannguolou.
874 ‡Llunferth the bishop consecrated.‡
875 Dungarth king of Cernyw ‡that is of the Cornish‡ was drowned.
876 The battle of Sunday in Mona.
877 Rhodri and his son Gwriad is killed by the Saxons.
878 Aed son of Neill dies.
880 The battle of Conwy. Vengeance for Rhodri at God’s hand. ‡The battle of Cynan.‡
882 Catgueithen died.
885 Hywel died in Rome.
887 Cerball died.
889 Suibne the wisest of the Irish died.
892 Hyfaidd dies.
894 Anarawd came with the Angles and laid waste Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi.
895 The Northmen came and laid waste Lloegr and Bycheiniog and Gwent and Gwynllywiog.
896 ‡Bread failed in Ireland. Vermin like moles with two teeth fell from the air and ate everything up; they were driven out by fasting and prayer.‡
898 ‡Athelstan king of the Saxons died.‡
900 Alfred king of the Gewissi dies.
902 Igmund came to Mona and took Maes Osfeilion.
903 ‡Merfyn son of Rhodri died and ‡ Llywarch son of Hyfaidd dies.
904 Rhodri ‡sone of Hyfaidd ‡ was beheaded in Arwystli.
906 The battle of Dinmeir and Mynyw was broken.
907 ‡Bishop ‡ Gorchywyl dies ‡ and king Cormac‡.
908 ‡Bishop ‡ Asser died.
909 King Cadell son of Rhodri dies.
913 Ohter comes ‡to Britain‡.
915 Anarawd king ‡of the Britons‡ dies.
917 Queen Aethelflaed died.
919 King Clydog was killed.
921 The battle of Dinas Newydd.
928 Hywel journeyed to Rome. ‡Helen died.‡
935 ‡Gruffydd son of Owain died.‡
938 The battle of Brune.
939 Hyfaidd son of Clydog, and Meurig, died.
941 Aethelstan ‡king of the Saxons‡ died.
942 King Afloeg dies.
943 Cadell son of Arthfael was poisoned. And Idwal ‡son of Rhodri ‡ and his son Elisedd are killed by the Saxons.
944 Llunferth bishop in Mynyw died.
945 ‡Bishop Morlais died.‡
946 Cyngen son of Elisedd was poisoned. And Eneuris bishop in Mynyw died. And strathclyde was laid wasted by the Saxons.
947 Edmund king of the Saxons was killed.
950 Hywel king of the Britons ‡called the Good‡ died.
951 And Cadwgan son of Owain is killed by the Saxons. And the battle of Carno ‡between the sons of Hywel and the sons of Idwal‡.
952 ‡Iago and Idwal the sons of Idwal laid Dyfed waste.‡
954 Rhodri son of Hywel dies.

— Ingram, James, translator. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. London: Everyman Press, 1912.

The primary text of the above translation is taken from the Harleian manuscript (a.k.a. MS. A — London, British Library, MS. Harleian 3859, folios 190r-193r.), the earliest copy of the Annales Cambriae which has survived. The text enclosed within the “‡” symbols are entries which are not found in the Harleian manuscript, but which appear in a later version.

An Order of Malediction

The Cathach of St. Columba.
The Cathach of St. Columba.

Adomnán has also set down an order of malediction for them, to wit, a psalm for every day up to twenty days and an apostle or a noble saint for every day to be invoked with it, to wit, “Quare” and Peter, “Domine quid multiplicati” and John, “Verba mea” and Philip, “Domine Deus meus” and Bartholomew, “Dixit insipiens” and Thomas, “Deus, Deus meus respice” and Matthew “Iudica me Domine innocentium” and Jacob “Dixit iniustus” and Simon “Domine ne in furore” and Thaddeus, “Dixi custodiam”  and Mattias, “Deus deorum”  and Mark, “Quid gloriaris” and Luke, “Dixit insipiens”  and Stephen, “Exurgat deus” and Ambrose, “Salvum me” and Gregory of Rome, “Deus, venerunt gentes” and Martin, “Deus, quis similis” and old Paul, “Deus laudem” and George, “Audite caeli quae loquor,” “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo,” &c.

— Cáin Adamnáin, xxxii.

Adomnán Obtained This Law of God

After fourteen years Adomnán obtained this Law of God, and this is the cause. On Pentecost Eve, a holy angel of the Lord came to him, and again at Pentecost after a year, and seized a staff, and struck his side and said to him, “Go forth into Ireland, and make a law in it that women be not in any manner killed by men, through slaughter or any other death, either by poison, or in water, or in fire, or by any other beast, or in a pit, or by dogs, but that they shall die in their lawful bed. Thou shalt establish a law in Ireland and Britain for the sake of the mother of each one, because a mother has borne each one, and for the sake of Mary mother of Jesus Christ, through whom all are. Mary besought her Son on behalf of Adomnán about this Law. For whoever slays a woman shall be condemned to a twofold punishment: that is, his right hand and his left foot shall be cut off before death, and then he shall die, and his kindred shall pay seven full cumals and one-seventh part of the penance. If, instead of life and amputation, a fine has been imposed, the penance is fourteen years, and fourteen cumals shall be paid. But if a host has done it, every fifth man up to three hundred shall be condemned to that punishment; if few, they shall be divided into three parts. The first part of them shall be put to death by lot, hand and foot having been first cut off; the second part shall pay fourteen full cumals; the third shall be cast into exile beyond the sea, under the rule of a hard regimen; for the sin is great when any slays the mother and sister of Christ’s mother and the mother of Christ, and her who carries a spindle and who clothes every one. But he who from this day forward shall put a woman to death and does not do penance according to the Law, shall not only perish in eternity, and be cursed for God and Adomnán, but all shall be cursed that have heard it and do not curse him, and do not chastise him according to the judgement of this Law.”

— Cáin Adamnáin, xxxiii.

Certain Dangers of a Most Formidable and Almost Insurmountable Kind

A composite image of four photographs of moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), photographed from the surface of Loch Na Keal, a sea loch on the west coast of Mull, Scotland.

The monstrous “insects” of this translation may have been jellyfish. They might have looked to the sailors as the tops of frogs in the water and their stinging tentacles would have coated the oars and the rest of the currach in a venomous poison.

* * *

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.

After the lapse of a few months, whilst the saint was remaining in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), Cormac’s name was mentioned one day unexpectedly in his presence by some persons in conversation, who were observing that it was not yet known whether the voyage of Cormac had been successful or otherwise. Upon hearing this, the saint joined the conversation and said: “You shall see Cormac, about whom you are now speaking, arrive here today.”

And after about an hour, wonderful to relate, lo! Cormac unexpectedly arrived, and proceeded to the oratory whilst all expressed their admiration and gave thanks to God.

Having mentioned thus briefly the prediction of the blessed man regarding Cormac’s second voyage, we have now to relate another equally remarkable instance of the holy man’s prophetic knowledge regarding his third voyage.

When Cormac was laboriously engaged in his third voyage over the ocean, he was exposed to the most imminent danger of death. For, when for fourteen days in summer, and as many nights, his vessel sailed with full sails before a south wind, in a straight course from land, into the northern regions, his voyage seemed to be extended beyond the limits of human wanderings, and return to be impossible.

Accordingly, after the tenth hour of the fourteenth day, certain dangers of a most formidable and almost insurmountable kind presented themselves. A multitude of loathsome and annoying insects, such as had never been seen before, covered the sea in swarms, and struck the keel and sides, the prow, and stern of the vessel, so very violently, that it seemed as if they would wholly penetrate the leathern covering of the ship. According to the accounts afterwards-given by those who were there, they were about the size of frogs; they could swim, but were not able to fly; their sting was extremely painful, and they crowded upon the handles of the oars.

When Cormac and his fellow-voyagers had seen these and other monsters, which it is not now our province to describe, they were filled with fear and alarm, and, shedding copious tears, they prayed to God, who is a kind and ready helper of those who are in trouble. At that same hour our holy Columba, although far away in body, was present in spirit with Cormac in the ship. Accordingly he gave the signal, and calling the brethren to the oratory, he entered the church, and addressing those who were present, he uttered the following prophecy in his usual manner: “Brethren, pray with all your usual fervour for Cormac, who by sailing too far hath passed the bounds of human enterprise, and is exposed at this moment to dreadful alarm and fright, in the presence of monsters which were never before seen, and are almost indescribable. We ought, therefore, to sympathize with our brethren and associates who are in such imminent danger, and to pray to the Lord with them; behold at this moment Cormac and his sailors are shedding copious tears. and praying with intense fervency to Christ; let us assist them by our prayers, that God may take compassion upon us, and cause the wind, which for the past fourteen days has blown from the south, to blow from the north, and this north wind will, of course, deliver Cormac’s vessel out of all danger.”

Having said this he knelt before the altar, and in a plaintive voice poured forth his prayers to the almighty power of God, who governeth the winds and all things, After having prayed he arose quickly, and wiping away his tears, joyfully gave thanks to God, saying, “Now, brethren, let us congratulate our dear friends for whom we have been praying, for God will now change the south into a north wind, which will free our associates from their perils, and bring them to us here again.” As he spoke the south wind ceased, and a north wind blew for many days after, so that Cormac’s ship was enabled to gain the land. And Cormac hastened to visit Columba, and in God’s bounty they looked on each other again face to face, to the extreme joy and wonder of all. Let the reader, then, carefully consider how great and of what a character the blessed man must have been, who possessed such prophetic knowledge, and who, by invoking the name of Christ, could rule the winds and the waves.

— St. Adomnán’s Vita Columbæ, Book II, Chapter xliii.