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Life of St. Columba (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin

About the Author

St Adomnan of Iona was born in Ireland c.628, a descendant of St Columba's grandfather. In 679 he became the ninth abbot of Iona. He played an important role in persuading the northern Irish churches to adopt the Catholic date for Easter, but his most famous work is his Life of St Columba. He died on Iona in 704.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140444629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140444629
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carlton B. Turner on March 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Penguin Classic edition of Adomnan's Life of St. Columba must rate as the modern standard of the life of this early Celtic saint. A new translation by Richard Sharpe of Wadham College, Oxford has as its goal to make the work by Adomnan understood in English. A very readable historical introduction of about 100 pages sets the scene for Columba, for Adomnan and for the early monastery in Iona. Sharpe sifts through the many layers of stories that have grown up over the many centuries and notes what we have real evidence for and not. Adomnan's text itself is about 125 pages and then there is over 140 pages of detailed notes on the text, followed by an extensive bibliography and index. To take it all in one would have to be very familiar to early Irish history but of course this is the source for much of that history.

Whether one has been to Iona or followed the lives of the Northern Celtic saints in England & Scotland this work puts these stories in a living context. Adomnan was the 9th abbot of the monastery on Iona after Columba and wrote about 100 years after the saint's death. There is almost a sense of being present at the time of his stories about Columba and the monks and noted people of his times. With all the claims to veracity and eye-witness the hundreds of miracles that are related make one stop to think that perhaps these people experienced the interconnectedness of all life in ways beyond our experience today. This is an amazing story about a small out of the way place and a larger than life person. It is about real events that have had more effect on western history than we can probably imagine. It is almost forgotten to many and this new work (1994) may help bring it into our contemporary appreciation for the roots that made us who we are today.
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Format: Paperback
What truly amazes me, are the number of Christians who read this stuff, and come away saying, "Well, it wasn't really like this. He (the author) made some things up..." This is absurd. At least have the courage of your convictions. If you're looking for hard core, empirical research on the life of Columba, then you don't belong in the Hagiography section. However, if you are a devotee of Columba, whether as a monastic looking for guidance, or a spiritual seeker "in the world", then this Life of the Saint is a wonderful guide to the spiritual life. All conceivable things are covered: how to embrace one's spouse when they're just not lovable, how to raise children, how to do business, how to work, how to pray, and last but not least, how to get outside of your laughable self for a change. Those who are seeking a "factual" account of this Saint are in the wrong place entirely, since they can't seem to discern that the monster of Lochness might in fact, be a spiritual metaphor. They also can't seem to accept the fact that the hagiographer is telling the truth, as he knew it, is further a monk, and who, even further, knows full well that "tall tale telling" is a DEADLY SIN! Why people assume that hagiographers are waxing poetic is bad scholarship and bad logic. Instead, let's simply read his account and see what we discover: A truly good, compassionate and humble man who discovered the secret of Life: Jesus Christ. And why? Because life in Christ is just plain fun! It's fun to overcome evil Druids with prayer, and it's FUN to have the victory in Christ. It's FUN to go around feeding souls and touching hearts like only Columba can!

Eu'nan, the author, certainly isn't going to give you any "good reasons" or theories as to why his kinsman left the island.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Sharpe's version of Adomnan's Life of St Columba consists of three, roughly equal, parts - an introduction, the book itself, and a series of scholarly notes. My advice would be to read the book itself first, then delve back into the introduction, which gives a helpful background to the political, religious and social climate of the time. The appeal of Celtic Christianity, I suppose, is that it arrives with us largely unsullied by the development of modern, industrial civilisation. Where other denominations have grown up with us, maybe aged with us to become cynical and confused, Celtic Christianity remains untouched, almost child like. It appears to be a religion that is close to nature and simple, appealing to our concerns for the environment, peace and justice. And its art is cool. Perhaps, though, it makes more sense to see life on Iona in the sixth century as just simpler, but also tougher and harsher. Columba says goodbye to his horse when he's dying (ah, he loved animals) but he also provided a poor man with a magic pointed stick to provide him with regular food. He's also politically astute and vengeful (well, via the wrath of God). So no hippy then. Adomnan's book is essentially a case for St Columba the saint, with miracles, prophecies and angels, but precious little of what the man really thought. Richard Sharpe's book allows this to come through clearly, and reminds us of how little we know for certain about these times. Maybe that's why today we are tempted to inspire them with the beliefs we need to give us comfort.
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