Miracle Stories and the Primary Purpose of Adomnán’s Vita Columbae

Miracle Stories and the Primary Purpose of Adomnán’s Vita Columbae

Nilsson, Sara E. Ellis

The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe, Vol.10 (2007)


Scholars argue about the purpose of Adomnán’s Vita Columbae, viewing it as either political, didactic or an endorsement of Iona scholarship. Although the vita is based on hagiographical models, it is not merely a re-production. In addition to the evidence presented by the analysis of the miracle stories, it is maintained that Adomnán wrote his work for the monks on Iona; therefore, the argument for a didactic purpose is the strongest.

vitIn Adomnán’s Vita Columbae (VC) miracle stories play a prominent role. The entire life is, in fact, a succession of stories dealing with miracles of various types, such as prophecy. Varied reasons for writing the VC can be identified including the politics or political agenda of Adomnán, the promotion of the cult of Columba, the didactic purposes for the monks (and lay people), or the demonstration of the knowledge and learning of Columba and his monasteries through the use of literary devices. In this article, an analysis of the miracles in the VC will be used to illuminate the purpose of the vita and to demonstrate that this was primarily didactic—that is, morally instructive or educative—rather than political or scholarly.

Click here to read this article from The Heroic Age


Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine