St Columba Sees Nessie
Highlands The 22nd of August 565 AD
On November 12 1933 hard evidence – of a sort – emerged about the supposed Loch Ness Monster when the first photo was taken, but the legend goes back far further, seemingly to the 6th century.
Cited by some as evidence of a monster inhabiting the Loch Ness area from ancient times, dismissed by others as an example of a traditional embellishment in saintly hagiographies, the story of St Columba’s encounter with a water-monster in 565 is whatever the case intriguing.
Columba was travelling in the North of Scotland to visit a Pictish king, seeking to win more converts to Christianity. He and his party arrived at the banks of the River Ness (not, you will note, the Loch itself), where they chanced upon a burial party. The dead man, they were told, had been swimming the river when a monster attacked; in spite of his friends attempting to rescue him from a boat, the monster dragged him beneath the waters and killed him.
The saint nonetheless ordered one of his followers to swim across and fetch the ferry moored on the opposite bank. When the man did so the monster appeared again, but Columba made the sign of the cross and forbade the creature to go any further. It obeyed, the follower was untouched, and importantly for the Christian missionaries the tale spread among the Picts and for them proved the prowess of Columba’s god.
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