A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of August, Solar Year 2018

Sunlight Through Lace

On this day, August 22, 565, Saint Columba is said to have encountered the Loch Ness Monster.

Saint Columba was an Irish abbot, missionary and scholar who helped spread Christianity in Scotland. He was also a statesman, a diplomat, an historical scholar, an author and a poet. Among Saint Columba’s many  accomplishments is the founding of multiple abbeys and monasteries — including the Abbey at Iona, which remained an important spiritual, academic, social and political institution for many centuries. He is highly regarded by both Scots and the Irish, regardless of their religious persuasion.

Saint Columba’s monstrous encounter is contained in the seventh-century book “The Life of Saint Columba”, written by his contemporary biographer Abbot Adamnan of the Abbey at Iona. This is the first recorded account of the Loch Ness Monster:

“While standing upon the bank of the River Ness which flows out of Loch Ness, in northern Scotland, Columba contemplated the best way to cross to the other side. As he considered the problem before him, he came across a group of heathenish Picts who were busy burying a friend who had been attacked by an enormous “water beast” while swimming in the river.

When Columba heard the story from the assembled mourners, he laid his staff across the dead man’s chest and, miraculously, the man stood up, hale and hearty. Against common sense, Columba ordered Brother Lugne Mocumin, one of his fellow monks, to swim across the loch and bring back a small boat which was moored on the opposite shore. Without hesitation, Lugne stripped off his tunic and immediately jumped into the water.

The monster, alerted by Lugne’s splashing around, surfaced and raced towards the hapless monk, eager for a bite. The monster roared a might roar, darting towards the swimming monk with its mouth wide open, as Lugne was in the middle of the stream. Everyone on the shore cried out hoping to warn the monk of his impending doom. However, Columba was unmoved. Instead, the saint stepped forward boldly to the edge of the loch and, making the sign of the cross while invoking the Name of the Lord, spoke in a commanding voice. ‘You will go no further!’ he demanded of the monster. ‘Do not touch the man! Leave at once!’

Even though the monster was no more than a spear’s length away from the swimming monk, at the sound of the saint’s words, it stopped and immediately fled the scene terrified. The monster quickly absconded to the depths of the loch behind him, allowing Brother Lugne to paddled the boat back unharmed. Everyone was astonished. If the heathens at the funeral weren’t sufficiently impressed with Columba bringing their friend back to life, they were thoroughly impressed with how the monster obeyed the saint.”

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