Scotlands History

Law of the Innocents

In AD 697 the Abbot of Iona, Adomnán, introduced the Law of the Innocents; known as the 'Cáin Adomnáin' – the Law of Adomnán. The Law of the Innocents was an attempt to protect non-combatants: women, children and the clergy – to give rights to civilians.

Adomnán managed to get the King of Dál Riata, the king of the Picts and more than 50 Irish kings to agree to the Law of the Innocents.

The Cáin Adomnáin recounts that an angel told Adomnán to create a law that:

… women be not in any manner killed by men, through slaughter or any other death, either by poison, or in water, or in fire, or by any other beast, or in a pit, or by dogs, but that they shall die in their lawful bed …

… he who from this day forward shall put a woman to death and does not do penance according to the Law, shall not only perish in eternity, and be cursed for God and Adomnán.

The Law of the Innocents laid out a series of fines for unlawful acts including wounding or slaying innocent children, clerics and women.


  • A photograph of the inside of Iona Abbey

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