The Heroic Age

Issue 7

Spring 2004

Columba and Spiritual Proximity


Argues that nearness to other monks was a dominant theme in Adomnan's Life of St. Columba. Spiritual proximity is of much greater concern in early Irish monasticism than in Benedictine or Pachomian monasticism, even while the Irish are noted for lonely peregrinatio.

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Notes and Works Cited



1. For more information on Antony, Shenoute, and Pachomius, see Athanasius of Alexandria's Life of Antony (Ellershaw 1957), Besa's Life of Shenoute (Bell 1983), and The Life of Saint Pachomius and his Disciples (Veilleux, 1980).

2. Monks were not to seek exile without their abbot's consent, however (Adomnan 1.6).

3. Adomnan 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 1.22, 1.25-26, 1.30, 1.41, 1.48; book 2.33, 2.42

4. The Rule of St. Benedict instructs "No one should presume to relate to anyone else what he saw or heard outside the monastery, because that causes the greatest harm. If anyone does so presume, he shall be subjected to the punishment of the rule" (Fry 1982, 91-2). The so-called Rule of Pachomius had similar prohibitions, and Pachomius would not permit a monk to tell others of the sins he committed in Alexandria before entering the monastery (Veilleux 1980, 158).

5. Adomnan book 3.14, and perhaps book 2.11 and 2.27, are the only instances of conversion in the Life.


Adomnan book.chapter: Adomnan's Life of Columba, see Anderson & Anderson, 1991.

Besa book.chapter: Besa's Life of Shenute, see Bell, 1983.


Works Cited

Anderson, Alan Orr and Marjorie Ogilivie Anderson, ed. and trans. Adomnan's 'Life of Columba'. 1991. Revised edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Bell, David N., trans. 1983. The Life of Shenoute. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.

Ellershaw, H., trans. [1924] 1957. Life of Antony, Select Writings of Athanasius. Library of Nicene and post Nicene Fathers. Second Series, volume 4, 195-221. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company. Available on the World Wide Web at

Fry, Timothy, ed. 1982. The Rule of St. Benedict in English. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Veilleux, Armand, ed. 1980. Pachomian Koinonia, Volume One: The Life of Saint Pachomius and his Disciples. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.

Copyright © Alexander Rolfe, 2004. All rights reserved.

This edition copyright © The Heroic Age, 2004. All rights reserved.