Saint Patrick: Wikis


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Saint Patrick
Born c. AD 387
Banna Venta Berniae, Britain (suggested to be near Birdoswald, Cumbria, England[1])
Died 17 March, 461
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodoxy
Anglican Communion
Lutheran Church
Feast 17 March (Saint Patrick's Day)
Patronage Ireland, Nigeria, Montserrat, New York, Boston, engineers, paralegals, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, invoked against snakes[2]

Saint Patrick (Latin: Sanctus Patricius, Irish: Naomh Pádraig) (c. 387 – 17 March, 493;[3] ) was a Romanized-Celt, a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognised patron saint of Ireland (although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints).

Two authentic letters from him survive, from which come the only universally accepted details of his life. When he was about 16[4] he was captured from Britain by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After entering the Church, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked.

By the eighth century he had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish monastery system evolved after the time of Patrick and the Irish church did not develop the diocesan model that Patrick and the other early missionaries had tried to establish.[citation needed]

Most available details of his life are from later hagiographies from the seventh century onwards, and these are not now accepted without detailed criticism. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster would imply that he lived from 340 to 440, and ministered in what is modern day Northern Ireland from 428 onwards. The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty, but on a widespread interpretation he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century.Saint Patrick's Day (17 March) is celebrated both in and outside of Ireland, as both a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland it is a both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation and outside of Ireland, it can be a celebration of Ireland itself.



Most modern studies of Saint Patrick follow a variant of T. F. O'Rahilly's "Two Patricks" theory.[5] That is to say, many of the traditions later attached to Saint Patrick originally concerned Palladius, who Prosper of Aquitaine's Chronicle says was sent by Pope Celestine I as the first bishop to Irish Christians in 431.[6] Palladius was not the only early cleric in Ireland at this time. Saints Auxilius, Secundinus and Iserninus are associated with early churches in Munster and Leinster. By this reading, Palladius was active in Ireland until the 460s.[7]

Prosper associates Palladius' appointment with the visits of Germanus of Auxerre to Britain to suppress the Pelagian heresy and it has been suggested that Palladius and his colleagues were sent to Ireland to ensure that exiled Pelagians did not establish themselves among the Irish Christians. The appointment of Palladius and his fellow-bishops was not obviously a mission to convert the Irish, but more probably intended to minister to existing Christian communities in Ireland.[8] The sites of churches associated with Palladius and his colleagues are close to royal centres of the period: Secundus is remembered by Dunshaughlin, County Meath, close to the Hill of Tara which is associated with the High King of Ireland; Killashee, County Kildare, close to Naas with links with the Kings of Leinster, is probably named for Auxilius. This activity was limited to the southern half of Ireland, and there is no evidence for them in Ulster or Connacht.[9]

Although the evidence for contacts with Gaul is clear, the borrowings from Latin into the Old Irish language show that links with former Roman Britain were many.[10] Saint Iserninus, who appears to be of the generation of Palladius, is thought to have been a Briton, and is associated with the lands of the Uí Cheinnselaig in Leinster. The Palladian mission should not be contrasted with later "British" missions, but forms a part of them.[11]

In his own words

Slemish, County Antrim, where Patrick is said to have worked as a shepherd while a slave.

Two Latin letters survive which are generally accepted to have been written by Patrick. These are the Declaration (Latin: Confessio) and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (Latin: Epistola). The Declaration is the more important of the two. In it Patrick gives a short account of his life and his mission.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain at Banna Venta Berniae, a location otherwise unknown.[12][13] Calpornius, his father, was a deacon, his grandfather Potitus a priest. When he was about sixteen, he was captured and carried off as a slave to Ireland.[14] Patrick worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years. He writes that his faith grew in captivity, and that he prayed daily.[15] After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away he says,[16] where he found a ship and, after various adventures, returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.[17]

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.[18]

A. B. E. Hood suggests that the Victoricus of Patrick's vision may be identified with Saint Victricius, bishop of Rouen in the late 4th century, who was the only European churchman of the time to advocate or practice conversion of pagans, and who visited Britain in an official capacity in 396.[19]

Much of the Declaration concerns charges made against Patrick by his fellow Christians at a trial. What these charges were, he does not say explicitly, but he writes that he returned the gifts which wealthy women gave him, did not accept payment for baptisms, nor for ordaining priests, and indeed paid for many gifts to kings and judges, and paid for the sons of chiefs to accompany him. It is concluded, therefore, that he was accused of some sort of financial impropriety, and perhaps of having obtained his bishopric in Ireland with personal gain in mind.[20]

From this same evidence, something can be seen of Patrick's mission. He writes that he "baptised thousands of people".[21] He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.[22]

Patrick's position as a foreigner in Ireland was not an easy one. His refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship, fosterage and affinity. Legally he was without protection, and he says that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution.[23]

Murchiú's life of Saint Patrick contains a supposed prophecy by the druids which gives an impression of how Patrick and other Christian missionaries were seen by those hostile to them:

Across the sea will come Adze-head,[24] crazed in the head,
his cloak with hole for the head, his stick bent in the head.
He will chant impieties from a table in the front of his house;
all his people will answer: "so be it, so be it."[25]

The second piece of evidence which comes from Patrick's life is the Letter to Coroticus or Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, written after a first remonstrance was received with ridicule and insult. In this, Patrick writes[26] an open letter announcing that he has excommunicated Coroticus because he had taken some of Patrick's converts into slavery while raiding in Ireland. The letter describes the followers of Coroticus as "fellow citizens of the devils" and "associates of the Scots [ie, the Irish of Argyll and northern Ireland] and Apostate Picts".[27] Based largely on an 8th-century gloss, Coroticus is taken to be King Ceretic of Alt Clut.[28] It has been suggested that it was the sending of this letter which provoked the trial which Patrick mentions in the Confession.[29]


According to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals, Patrick died in AD 460 on March 17, a date accepted by some modern historians.[30] Prior to the 1940s it was believed without doubt that he died in 420 and thus had lived in the first half of the 5th century.[31] A lecture entitled "The Two Patricks", published in 1942 by T. F. O'Rahilly, caused enormous controversy by proposing that there had been two "Patricks", Palladius and Patrick, and that what we now know of St. Patrick was in fact in part a conscious effort to blend the two into one hagiographic personality. Decades of contention eventually ended with most historians now asserting that Patrick was indeed most likely to have been active in the mid-to-late 5th century[citation needed].

While Patrick's own writings contain no dates, they do contain information which can be used to date them. Patrick's quotations from the Acts of the Apostles follow the Vulgate, strongly suggesting that his ecclesiastical conversion did not take place before the early fifth century. Patrick also refers to the Franks as being pagans. Their conversion is dated to the period 496–508.[32]

There is plentiful evidence for a medieval tradition that Patrick had died in 493. An addition to the Annals of Ulster states that in the year 553 (approximately two hundred and fifty years before the addition was made):

I have found this in the Book of Cuanu: The relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille. Three splendid halidoms were found in the burial-place: his goblet, the Angel's Gospel, and the Bell of the Testament. This is how the angel distributed the halidoms: the goblet to Dún, the Bell of the Testament to Ard Macha, and the Angel's Gospel to Colum Cille himself. The reason it is called the Angel's Gospel is that Colum Cille received it from the hand of the angel.[33]

The reputed burial place of St. Patrick in Downpatrick

The placing of this event in the year 553 indicate a tradition that Patrick's death was 493, or at least in the early years of that decade, and the Annals of Ulster report under 493:

Patrick, arch-apostle, or archbishop and apostle of the Irish, rested on the 16th of the Kalends of April in the 120th year of his age, in the 60th year after he had come to Ireland to baptise the Irish.

This tradition is also seen in an annalistic reference to the death of a saint termed Patrick's disciple, Mochta, who is said to have died in 535.[34]

St. Patrick is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba, although this has never been proven. The Battle for the Body of St. Patrick demonstrates the importance of both him as a spiritual leader, and of his body as an object of veneration, in early Christian Ireland. Saint Patrick Visitor Centre is a modern exhibition complex located in Downpatrick and is a permanent interpretative exhibition centre featuring interactive displays on the life and story of Saint Patrick. It provides the only permanent exhibition centre in the world devoted to Saint Patrick[citation needed].

Seventh-century writings

An early document which is silent concerning Patrick is the letter of Columbanus to Pope Boniface IV of about 613. Columbanus writes that Ireland's Christianity "was first handed to us by you, the successors of the holy apostles", apparently referring to Palladius only, and ignoring Patrick.[35] Writing on the Easter controversy in 632 or 633, Cummian—it is uncertain whether this is the Cummian associated with Clonfert or Cumméne of Iona— does refer to Patrick, calling him our papa, that is pope or primate.[36]

Two works by late seventh-century hagiographers of Patrick have survived. These are the writings of Tírechán, and Vita sancti Patricii of Muirchu moccu Machtheni. Both writers relied upon an earlier work, now lost, the Book of Ultán.[37] This Ultán, probably the same person as Ultan of Ardbraccan, was Tírechán's foster-father. His obituary is given in the Annals of Ulster under the year 657.[38] These works thus date from a century and a half after Patrick's death.

Tírechán writes

"I found four names for Patrick written in the book of Ultán, bishop of the tribe of Conchobar: holy Magonus (that is, "famous"); Succetus (that is, the god of war); Patricius (that is, father of the citizens); Cothirtiacus (because he served four houses of druids)."[39]

Muirchu records much the same information, adding that "[h]is mother was named Concessa."[40]

The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu is a martial figure, who contests with druids, overthrows pagan idols, and curses kings and kingdoms.[41] On occasion, their accounts contradict Patrick's own writings: Tírechán states that Patrick accepted gifts from female converts although Patrick himself flatly denies this. However, the emphasis Tírechán and Muirchu placed on female converts, and in particular royal and noble women who became nuns, is thought to be a genuine insight into Patrick's work of conversion. Patrick also worked with the unfree and the poor, encouraging them to vows of monastic chastity. Tírechán's account suggests that many early Patrician churches were combined with nunneries founded by Patrick's noble female converts.[42]

The martial Patrick found in Tírechán and Muirchu, and in later accounts, echoes similar figures found during the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. It may be doubted whether such accounts are an accurate representation of Patrick's time, although such violent events may well have occurred as Christians gained in strength and numbers.[43]

Much of the detail supplied by Tírechán and Muirchu, in particular the churches established by Patrick, and the monasteries founded by his converts, may relate to the situation in the seventh century, when the churches which claimed ties to Patrick, and in particular Armagh, were expanding their influence throughout Ireland in competition with the church of Kildare. In the same period, Wilfred, Archbishop of York, claimed to speak, as metropolitan archbishop, "for all the northern part of Britain and of Ireland" at a council held in Rome in the time of Pope Agatho, thus claiming jurisdiction over the Irish church.[44]

Other presumed early materials include the Irish annals, which contain records from the Chronicle of Ireland. These sources have conflated Palladius and Patrick.[45] Another early document is the so-called First Synod of Saint Patrick. This is a seventh-century document, once, but no longer, taken as to contain a fifth century original text. It apparently collects the results of several early synods, and represents an era when pagans were still a major force in Ireland. The introduction attributes it to Patrick, Auxilius, and Iserninus, a claim which "cannot be taken at face value." [46]

In legend

Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes;[47] one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul (see Carnutes), or that it could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolised as “serpents”.[citation needed] Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of 'three divine persons in the one God' (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick's time).

Some Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig. During his evangelising journey back to Ireland from his parent's home at Birdoswald, he is understood to have carried with him an ash wood walking stick or staff. He thrust this stick into the ground wherever he was evangelising and at the place now known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick) the message of the dogma took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root by the time he was ready to move on.

The 12th century work Acallam na Senórach tells of Patrick being met by two ancient warriors, Caílte mac Rónáin and Oisín, during his evangelical travels. The two were once members of Fionn mac Cumhaill's warrior band the Fianna, and somehow survived to Patrick's time. They traveled with the saint and told him their stories[citation needed].

Saint Patrick's Bell

The National Museum of Dublin posesses a bell first mentioned, acccording to the Annals of Ulster, in the Book of Cuanu in the year 552. The bell was part of a collection of "relics of Patrick" robbed from his tomb sixty years after his death by Colum Cille to be placed in a shrine. The bell is described as "The Bell of the Testament". The bell is one of three relics described as "precious minna" (extremely valuable items), of which the other two are described as Patrick's goblet and "The Angels Gospel". Cille would seem to be under the direction of an "Angel" for whom he sent the goblet to Down, the bell to Armagh and kept posession of the Angels Gospel for himself. The name Angels Gospel is given to the book because it was supposed that Cille received it from the angels hand. A stir was caused in 1044 when two kings, somehow disputing the bell, went on spates of prisoner taking and cattle theft. The annals make one more apparent reference to the bell when chronicling a death, of 1356, "Solomon Ua Mellain, The Keeper of The Bell of the Testament, protector, rested in Christ." As a mueseum exhibit, the bell is accompanied by a shrine in which it was encased for King Donnel O'Loughlin sometime between 1091 and 1105. The shrine is a sparkling example of fine jewellry. Intricate and delicate celtic design is worked in gold and silver over every surface except where encrusted with large precious stones.

Although today, one or two of the jewels are missing as well as some of the panels of celtic artwork, full apreciation of the workmanship in the shrine is still possible and it is kept, along with Patrick's Bell, in glittering condition by the National Museum as a priceless national treasure. The bell itself is simple in design, hammered into shape with a small handle fixed to the top with rivets. Originally forged from iron, it has since been coated in bronze. The shrine is inscribed with three names, including O'Loughlin's. The rear of the shrine, not intended to be seen, is decorated with crosses while the handle is decorated with, among other work, celtic designs of birds. The bell is accredited with working a miracle in 1044 and having been coated in bronze to sheild it from humans eyes for which it would be too holy. It measures 12.5 x 10cm at the base, 12.8 x 4cm at the shoulder, 16.5cm from base to shoulder, 3.3cm from shoulder to top of handle and weighs 1.7kg.[48]

Patrick's Bell and shrine were featured on RTE's the Late Late Show in March 2008 with part of the 2000 year old Broighter Hoard to mark celebrations for St Patrick's Day.[49]

Sainthood and modern remembrance

St Patrick's Neo-Gothic Cathedral in New York City, as seen from Rockefeller center.

March 17, popularly known as St. Patrick's Day, is believed to be his death date and is the date celebrated as his feast day. The day became a feast day in the universal church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding, as a member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary[50] in the early part of the 17th century.

For most of Christianity's first thousand years, canonisations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after the death of people considered to be very holy people, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints. As a result, St. Patrick has never been formally canonised by a Pope; nevertheless, various Christian churches declare that he is a Saint in Heaven (he is in the List of Saints). He is still widely venerated in Ireland and elsewhere today.[51]

St. Patrick is also venerated in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians living in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and in North America.[52] There are Orthodox icons dedicated to him.[53]

In literature

Robert Southey wrote a ballad called Saint Patrick's Purgatory, based on popular legends surrounding the saint's name. Stephen R. Lawhead also wrote the fictional Patrick: Son of Ireland based on the life of the celebrated Saint. [54]

Dutch/Scottish singer Chris Anderson wrote a poem called Saint Patricks Lament, based on the Saint's remembrance festival Saint Patrick's Day.

See also


  1. ^ Kerr, Gordon (2009) Timeline of Britain, Canary Press, page 14
  2. ^ "Roman Catholic Patron Saints Index". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  3. ^ St. Patrick in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913).
  4. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  5. ^ O'Rahilly, The two Patricks, Dublin 1942
  6. ^ De Paor, p. 79.
  7. ^ Byrne, pp. 78–79; De Paor, pp. 6–7 & 88–89; Duffy, pp. 16–17; Fletcher, p.300–306; Yorke, p. 112.
  8. ^ There may well have been Christian "Irish" people in Britain at this time; Goidelic-speaking people were found on both sides of the Irish Sea, with Irish being spoken from Cornwall to Argyll. The influence of the Kingdom of Dyfed may have been of particular importance. See Charles-Edwards, pp. 161–172; Dark, pp.188–190; Ó Cróinín, pp. 17–18; Thomas, pp. 297–300.
  9. ^ Duffy, pp. 16–17; Thomas, p. 305.
  10. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 184–187; Thomas, pp. 297–300; Yorke, pp. 112–114.
  11. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 233–240.
  12. ^ De Paor glosses it as "[probably near] Carlisle" and Thomas argues at length for the areas of Birdoswald, twenty miles (32 km) east of Carlisle on Hadrian's Wall. There is a Roman town called Bannaventa in Northamptonshire, but this is likely too far from the sea. See De Paor, pp. 88 & 96; Thomas, pp. 310–314; Bury, p. 17.
  13. ^ MacNeill, Eoin (1926), "The Native Place of St. Patrick", Papers read for the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, pp. 118 – 140,  – MacNeill argues for an origin in South Wales, noting that the western coasts of southern Scotland and northern England held little to interest a raider seeking quick access to booty and numerous slaves, while the southern coast of Wales offered both. In addition, the region was home to Déisi and Uí Liatháin settlers during this time, so Irish raiders would have had the contacts to tell them precisely where to go in order to quickly obtain booty and capture slaves. MacNeill also suggests a possible home town based on naming similarities, but allows that the transcription errors in manuscripts make this little more than an educated guess.
  14. ^ De Paor, p. 96.
  15. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick, Part 16". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  16. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick, Part 17". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  17. ^ De Paor, pp. 99–100; Charles-Edwards, p. 229.
  18. ^ De Paor, p. 100. De Paor glosses Foclut as "west of Killala Bay, in County Mayo", but it appears that the location of Fochoill (Foclut or Voclut) is still a matter of debate. See Charles-Edwards, p. 215.
  19. ^ Hood p. 4
  20. ^ Thomas, pp. 337–341; De Paor, pp. 104–107; Charles-Edwards, pp. 217–219.
  21. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick, Part 50". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  22. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 219–225; Thomas, pp. 337–341; De Paor, pp. 104–107.
  23. ^ De Paor, p. 107; Charles-Edwards, p. 221–222.
  24. ^ This is presumed to refer to Patrick's tonsure.
  25. ^ After Ó Cróinín, p.32; De Paor, p. 180. See also Ó Cróinín, pp. 30–33.
  26. ^ "Letter To Coroticus, by Saint Patrick". Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University. Retrieved 2010-03-11. 
  27. ^ Todd, James Henthorn (1863), "The Epistle on Coroticus", St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, Dublin: Hodges, Smith, & Co. (published 1864), pp. 383 – 385, 
  28. ^ De Paor, pp. 109–113; Charles-Edwards, pp. 226–230.
  29. ^ Thomas, pp. 339 – 343.
  30. ^ See Dumville, pp. 116–12; Wood, p. 45 n. 5.
  31. ^ Byrne, pp. 78–82; the notes following Tírechán's hagiography in the Book of Armagh state that Palladius "was also called Patrick, while other sources have vague mentions of 'two Patricks'", Byrne, p.78. See De Paor, pp. 203–206, for the notes referred to.
  32. ^ Stancliffe.
  33. ^ De Paor, p. 122.
  34. ^ De Paor, p. 121.
  35. ^ De Paor, pp. 141–143; Charles-Edwards, p. 182–183. Bede writing a century later, refers to Palladius only.
  36. ^ De Paor, pp 151–153; Charles-Edwards, p. 182–183.
  37. ^ Aideen O'Leary, "An Irish Apocryphal Apostle: Muirchú's Portrayal of Saint Patrick" The Harvard Theological Review 89.3 (July 1996), pp. 287–301, traces Muichù's sources and his explicit parallels of Patrick with Moses, the bringer of rechte Litre, the "letter of the Law"; the adversary, King Lóegaire, takes the role of Pharaoh.
  38. ^ Annals of Ulster, AU 657.1: "Obitus...Ultán moccu Conchobair."
  39. ^ De Paor, p. 154.
  40. ^ De Paor, pp. 175 & 177.
  41. ^ Their works are found in De Paor, pp. 154–174 & 175–197 respectively.
  42. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 224–226.
  43. ^ Ó Cróinín, pp. 30–33. Ramsay MacMullen's Christianizing the Roman Empire (Yale University Press, 1984) examines the better-recorded mechanics of conversion in the Empire, and forms the basis of Ó Cróinín's conclusions.
  44. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 416–417 & 429–440.
  45. ^ The relevant annals are reprinted in De Paor, pp. 117–130.
  46. ^ De Paor's conclusions at p. 135, the document itself is given at pp. 135–138.
  47. ^ "Why Ireland Has No Snakes - National Zoo". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  48. ^ The Bellshrine of St. Patrick, Clan McLaughlan website
  49. ^ National Treasures Visit The Late Late Show, RTE website
  50. ^ "The Catholic Encyclopedia: Luke Wadding". Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  51. ^ "Ask a Franciscan: Saints Come From All Nations - March 2001 Issue of St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  52. ^ "St Patrick the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland". Retrieved 11 November 2007. 
  53. ^ "Icon of St. Patrick". Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  54. ^ "Patrick: Son of Ireland | Books". 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 

Further reading

  • Brown, Peter (2003), The Rise of Western Christianity (2nd ed.), Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-22138-7 
  • Bury, John Bagnell (1905), Life of St. Patrick and his Place in History, London 
  • Byrne, Francis J. (1973), Irish Kings and High-Kings., London: Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-5882-8 
  • Charles-Edwards, T. M. (2000), Early Christian Ireland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-36395-0 
  • Dark, Ken (2000), Britain and the end of the Roman Empire, Stroud: Tempus, ISBN 0-7524-2532-3 
  • De Paor, Liam (1993), Saint Patrick's World: The Christian Culture of Ireland's Apostolic Age, Dublin: Four Courts Press, ISBN 1-85182-144-9 
  • Duffy, Seán,, ed. (1997), Atlas of Irish History, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, ISBN 0-7171-3093-2 
  • Dumville, David (1994), "The Death date of St. Patrick"", in Howlett, David, The Book of Letters of Saint Patrick the Bishop., Dublin: Four Courts Press, ISBN 1-85182-136-8 
  • Fletcher, Richard (1997), The Conversion of Europe: From Paganism to Christianity 371–1386 AD., London: Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-686302-7 
  • Hood, A. B. E (1978), St. Patrick: his Writings, and Muirchú's Life, London and Chichester: Phillimore, ISBN 0-85033-299-0 
  • Hughes, Kathleen (1972), Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, London: Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-16145-0 
  • Iannello, Fausto (2008), "Note storiche sull’Epistola ad Milites Corotici di San Patrizio", Atti della Accademia Peloritana dei Pericolanti, classe di Lettere, Filosofia e Belle Arti 84: 275–285 
  •  Moran, Patrick Francis Cardinal (1913). "St. Patrick". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  • MacQuarrie, Alan (1997), The Saints of Scotland: Essays in Scottish Church History AD 450–1093, Edinburgh: John Donald, ISBN 0-85976-446-X 
  • Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí (1995), Early Medieval Ireland: 400–1200, London: Longman, ISBN 0-582-01565-0 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (1999), Saint Patrick: The Man and his Works, London: S.P.C.K. 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2000), Celtic Theology, London: Continuum 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2005), Discovering Saint Patrick, New York: Orbis 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2005), The Capitula of Muirchu's Vita Patricii: do they point to an underlying structure in the text?, , Analecta Bollandiana 123: 79–89 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2007), Nagy, J. F., ed., Myth in Celtic literatures, Dublin: Four Courts Press, pp. 132–140 
  • O'Rahilly, T. F. (1942), The Two Patricks: A Lecture on the History of Christianity in Fifth-Century Ireland, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 
  • Stancliffe, Claire (2004). ""Patrick (fl. 5th cent.)"". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  • Thomas, Charles (1981), Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, London: Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-1442-1 
  • Wood, Ian (2001), The Missionary Life: Saints and the Evangelisation of Europe 400-1050, London: Longman, ISBN 0-582-31213-2 
  • Yorke, Barbara (2006), The Conversion of Britain: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain c.600–800, London: Longman, ISBN 0-582-77292-3 

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am," I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God.

Saint Patrick (c. 385March 17, 462, 492, or 493) was a Christian bishop and missionary, and is the patron saint of Ireland. (Accounts of his birth and death dates vary widely; some place his birth as early as 371 or as late as 387, and some his death as early as 461 or as late as 493)



If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.
  • At Tara today in this fateful hour
    I place all Heaven with its power
    And the sun with its brightness,
    And the snow with its whiteness,
    And fire with all the strength it hath,
    And lightning with its rapid wrath,
    And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
    And the sea with its deepness,
    And the rocks with their steepness,
    And the earth with its starkness
    All these I place,
    By God's almighty help and grace,
    Between myself and the powers of darkness.
    • "The Rune of St. Patrick", derived from "The Lorica", both traditionally attributed to St. Patrick, published in Lyrica Celtica (1896); also in Celtic Christianity : Ecology and Holiness (1987) by Christopher Bamford and William Parker Marsh, p. 54

Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus (c.450?)

Written in response to a massacre and enslavement of newly baptized Christians, it heavily quotes Christian scriptures. As translated from the Latin by John Skinner in The Confession of St. Patrick (1998)
  • I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am," I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He himself testifies that this is so. I never would have wanted these harsh words to spill from my mouth; I am not in the habit of speaking so sharply. Yet now I am driven by the zeal of God, Christ's truth has aroused me. I speak out too for love of my neighbors who are my only sons; for them I gave up my home country, my parents and even pushing my own life to the brink of death. If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.
  • I am not addressing my own people, nor my fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but those who are now become citizens of demons by reason of their evil works. They have chosen, by their hostile deeds, to live in death; comrades of the Scotti and Picts and of all who behave like apostates, bloody men who have steeped themselves in the blood of innocent Christians. The very same people I have begotten for God; their number beyond count, I myself confirmed them in Christ.
  • Because of all this, I am at a loss to know whether to weep more for those they killed or those that are captured: or indeed for these men themselves whom the devil has taken fast for his slaves. In truth, they will bind themselves alongside him in the pains of the everlasting pit: for "he who sins is a slave already" and is to be called "son of the devil."
  • I do not overreach myself, for I too have my part to play with "those whom he has called to himself and predestined" to teach the gospel in the midst of considerable persecutions "as far as the ends of the earth, even if the enemy reveals h's true envy through the tyranny of Coroticus, who fears neither God nor the priests whom he has chosen and to whom he has given the highest divine power, namely that "those whom they bind on earth are bound in heaven."
  • It would take too long to discuss or argue every single case, or to sift through the whole of the Law for precise witness against such greed. Sufficient to say, greed is a deadly deed. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. You shall not murder. A homicide may not stand beside Christ. Even "He who bates his brother is to be labeled murderer." Or, "He who does not love his brother dwells in death." therefore how much more guilty is he, who has stained his own hands in the blood of the sons of God, those very children whom only just now he has won for himself in this distant land by means of our feeble encouragement.
  • Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold this nobility of mine, I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of "everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."
  • How bitterly they despise me! just see how your sheep are torn apart and despoiled, and by those gangsters I have named, bound to the last man by the inimical mind of Coroticus. Far away from the love of God is the man who betrays my Christians into the hands of the Scotti and Picts. "Ravenous wolves" have gulped down the Lord's own flock, which was flourishing in Ireland and tended with utmost care.
  • I grieve for you, how I mourn for you, who are so very dear to me, but again I can rejoice within my heart, not for nothing "have I labored," neither has my exile been "in vain."
  • Now you, Coroticus— and your gangsters, rebels all against Christ, now where do you see yourselves? You gave away girls like prizes: not yet women, but baptized. All for some petty temporal gain that will pass in the very next instant. "Like a cloud passes, or smoke blown in the wind," so will "sinners, who cheat, slip away from the face of the Lord. But the just will feast for sure" with Christ. "They will judge the nations" and unjust kings "they will lord over" for world after world. Amen.
  • My chief request is that anyone who is a servant of God be ready and willing, to carry this letter forward; may it never be hidden or stolen by anyone, but rather, may it be read aloud before the whole people— Yes, even when Coroticus himself is present.
  • May God inspire these men sometime to come to their senses in regard to God again, so that they may repent, however latter day, of their grave crimes, namely homicide against the brothers of the Lord, and that they free these baptized women whom they have taken, so that then they may deserve to live to God and be made whole once more, here, now and for eternity.

The Confession (c. 452?)

Let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, who knew everything, even before the beginning of time.
  • I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
  • I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
  • I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul's desire.
  • For some time I have thought of writing, but I have hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures equally and have never changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove from a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of my preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, 'wisdom shall be recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in the learning of truth.'
  • Why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own? But who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A young man, almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew what I should desire and what I should shun.
  • I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.
  • Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be— if I would— such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.
  • I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.
    And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: 'You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.' And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: 'Behold, your ship is ready.' And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid o nothing), until I reached that ship.
  • After three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: 'Why is it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see another human being.' In fact, I said to them, confidently: 'Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.' And with God's help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them, and remained there for two nights, and the were full of their meat and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly.
  • A second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: 'You shall be with them for two months. So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their hands.
  • In a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: 'The Voice of the Irish', and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and the were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many ears the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.
  • It is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by one. I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me, from slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was threatened, from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to put into words. I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God as witness who knew all things even before they happened, that, though I was a poor ignorant waif, still he gave me abundant warnings through divine prophecy.
    Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I should lose homeland and family.
  • How is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of. the Irish and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
  • So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself as long as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily to turn me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until the end of my life for Christ my Lord, but the hostile flesh is always dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions. And I know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers, but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God's favour, I have kept the faith.
  • What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew everything, even before the beginning of time.
  • The Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times, because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant of what to do in view of my situation; because many were trying to prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: 'Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know not God?' Not from malice, but having no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.
  • You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth in the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the heathen among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them trust. God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for the sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about] persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord's name be blasphemed because of me, for it is written: 'Woe to the men through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.'
  • Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.
    But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.

The Lorica of Patrick

Also known as "St. Patrick’s Breastplate", and "The Deer’s Cry", this is a poem traditionally attributed to St. Patrick, though his authorship is not certain. It is quoted in many publications, including Christian Spirituality : Origins to the Twelfth Century (1986) by Bernard McGinn, Jean Leclercq, and John Meyendorff
  • I arise today
    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
    Through belief in the threeness
    Through confession of the Oneness
    Towards the creator.
  • I arise today
    Through the strength of heaven
    Light of sun
    Brilliance of moon
    Splendor of fire
    Speed of lightning
    Swiftness of wind
    Depth of sea
    Stability of earth
    Firmness of rock.
  • I arise today
    Through God’s strength to pilot me
    God’s might to uphold me,
    God’s wisdom to guide me
    God’s eye to look before me,
    God’s ear to hear me,
    God’s word to speak for me,
    God’s hand to guard me,
    God’s way to lie before me,
    God’s host to secure me
    against snares of devils
    against temptations of vices
    against inclinations of nature
    against everyone who shall wish me ill,
    afar and anear,
    alone and in a crowd.
  • Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
    Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
    Christ on my right, Christ on my left
    Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
    Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
    Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
    Christ in every eye that sees me,
    Christ in every ear that hears me.
  • I arise today
    Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through belief in the Thrones,
    Through confession of the Oneness
    Towards the Creator.

Quotes about St. Patrick

  • St. Patrick... one of the few saints whose feast day presents the opportunity to get determinedly whacked and make a fool of oneself all under the guise of acting Irish.
  • It is Patrick the Legend, of course, who is most engaging and comes to us as something of a happy Celtic party monster.
    • Charles M. Madigan


  • John Skinner, translator, The Confession of St. Patrick. (1998), ISBN 0-385-49163-8

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ST PATRICK, the patron saint of Ireland, 2 was probably born about the year 389. He was the son of a deacon, Calpurnius, and the grandson of a presbyter named Potitus. His father was a middle-class landed proprietor and a decurion, who is represented as living at a place called Bannauenta. The only place of this name we know is Daventry, but it seems more probable that Patrick's home is to be sought near the Severn, and Rhys conjectures that one of the three places called Banwen in Glamorganshire may be intended. The British name of the future apostle was Sucat, to which Mod. Welsh hygad, " warlike," corresponds. His Roman name has also survived in a hibernicized form, Cothrige, with the common substitution of Irish c for Brythonic p (cf. Irish cast, Lat. pascha). Patrick was doubtless educated as a Christian and was imbued with reverence for the Roman Empire. When about sixteen years of age he was carried off by a band of Irish marauders. The latter were possibly taking part in the raid of the Irish king Niall Noigiallach, who met with his end in. Britain in 405. Irish tradition represents the future apostle as tending the herds of a chieftain of the name of Miliucc (Milchu), near the mountain called Slemish in county Antrim, but Bury tries to show that the scene of his captivity was Connaught, perhaps in the neighbourhood of Croagh Patrick. His bondage lasted for six years. During this time he became subject to religious emotion and beheld visions which encouraged him to effect his escape. He fled, in all probability to the coast of Wicklow, and encountered a vessel which was engaged in the export of Irish wolf-dogs. After three days at sea the traders landed, possibly on the west coast of Gaul, and journeyed for twenty-eight days through a desert. At the end of two months Patrick parted from his companions and betook himself to the monastery of Lerins, where he probably spent a few years. On leaving the Mediterranean he seems to have returned home. It was doubtless during this stay in Britain that the idea of missionary enterprise in Ireland came to him. In a dream he saw a man named Victorious bearing innumerable epistles, one of which he received and read; the beginning of it contained the words "The Voice of the Irish"; whilst repeating these words he says, "I imagined that I heard in my mind the voice of those who were near the wood of Foclut (Fochlad), which is near the western sea, and thus they cried: ` We pray thee, holy youth, to come and walk again amongst us as before.'" The forest of Fochlad was in the neighbourhood of Killala Bay, but it is possible that it extended considerably to the south. Despite 1 We even find a feminine form, patricissa, for the wife of a patricius. The golden circlet worn on the head by the patricius as a symbol of his dignity was called a patricialis circulus. His career is involved in considerable obscurity. Widely varying views have been held by modern scholars with regard to his activity, some going so far as to treat all the accounts of his labours as the fictitious creation of a later age. In the present article Bury's reconstruction of the saint's life has been chiefly followed. Apart from its importance in other respects, Bury's treatment of the subject has at any rate the merit of defending the traditional view of St Patrick's career.

his natural diffidence, and opposition on the part of his relatives, Patrick resolved to return to Gaul in order to prepare himself for his mission. He proceeded to Auxerre - a place which seems to have had a close connexion with Britain and Ireland - and was ordained deacon by Bishop Amator, along with two others who were afterwards associated with him in spreading the faith in Ireland. The one was an Irishman called Fith, better known as Iserninus, the other Auxilius. Patrick must have spent at least fourteen years at Auxerre.

It seems not unlikely that Pelagianism had taken root among the Christian communities of Ireland, and it was found necessary to send a bishop to combat the heresy. Pope Celestine's choice fell on the deacon Palladius, who had taken a prominent part in stamping out the doctrine in Britain. The mission of Palladius (431-432), whom Zimmer has endeavoured to identify with Patrick, is obscure. Tradition associates his name with the mountains of Wicklow, and we are told that he retired to the land of the Picts in North Britain, where he died. Patrick probably felt great disappointment when Palladius was sent as the chosen envoy of Rome, but now Germanus seems to have decided that Patrick was the man for the task, and he was consecrated in 432. For the peculiar social conditions with which the Christian missionary would be confronted in Ireland see Brehon Laws and Ireland: Early History. Suffice it to say here that the land belonged to the tribes, and that the success of Patrick's undertaking depended 'entirely on his ability to gain the goodwill of the tribal kings and chiefs of clans. We are totally ignorant as to the extent and number of the pre-Patrician Christian communities in Ireland. It seems probable that they were, largely, if not wholly confined to the south-east of the island. Patrick landed at Inverdea, the mouth of the river Vartry in Wicklow, but we are not informed as to any of his doings in Leinster at this period. According to the story, he immediately proceeded northward to the kingdom of Ulidia (east Ulster), though a certain tradition represents him as going to Meath. Landing on the shores of Strangford Lough, he commenced his labours in the plain on the south-west side of that inlet. A convert chief named Dichu granted him a site for an establishment, and a wooden barn is stated to have been utilized for the purpose of worship, whence the modern Saul (Ir. saball, " barn"). Patrick's activity was bound to bring him sooner or later into conflict with the High-king Loigaire (reigned 428-467), son of Niall Noigiallach. Fedilmid, a brother of the monarch, is represented as having made over his estate at Trim to the saint to found a church, and thus the faith was established within Loigaire's territory. The story in picturesque fashion makes Patrick challenge the royal authority by lighting the Paschal fire on the hill of Slane on the night of Easter Eve. It chanced to be the occasion of a pagan festival at Tara, during which no fire might be kindled until the royal fire had been lit. A number of trials of skill between the Christian missionary and Loigaire's Druids ensue, and the final result seems to have been that the monarch, though unwilling to embrace the foreign creed, undertook to protect the Christian bishop. At a later date the saint was probably invited by Loigaire to take part in the codification of the Senchus Mor in order to represent the interests of the Christian communities. On another occasion Patrick is reported to have overthrown a famous idol known as Cenn Cruaich or Cromm Cruaich in the plain of Mag Slecht (county Cavan). Several churches seem to have been founded in the kingdom of Meath by the saint, but they cannot now be identified. Patrick is stated to have visited Connaught on three different occasions and to have founded churches, one of the most important being that at Elphin. As regards Ulster our information is very scanty, though we find him establishing churches in the three kingdoms of the province (Ailech, Oriel and Ulidia). Patrick's work is more closely identified with the north of Ireland than with the south. Traces of his mission, however, are to be found in Ossory and Muskerry. But his task in the south was doubtless rather that of an organizer, and a kind of circular letter has come down to us which was addressed by Patrick, Auxilius and Iserninus, to all the clergy of the island. There is some evidence that he made a journey to Rome (441-443) and brought back with him valuable relics. On his return he founded the church and monastery of Armagh, the site of which was granted him by Daire, king of Oriel, and it is probable that the see was intended by him to be specially connected with the supreme ecclesiastical authority. Some years before his death, which took place in 461, Patrick resigned his position as bishop of Armagh to his disciple Benignus, and possibly retired to Saul in Dalaradia, where he spent the remainder of his life. The place of his burial was a matter of dispute in early Ireland, but it seems most likely that he was interred at Saul.

Two highly important documents purporting to have been written by Patrick have come down to us. Although the genuineness of these writings has been impugned on various occasions by different scholars, there seems to be no reason for assuming that they did not emanate from the saint's pen. The one is the Confession, which is contained in an imperfect state in the Book of Armagh (c. 807), but complete copies are found in later MSS. The Confession, written towards the end of his life, gives a general account of his career. Various charges had been brought against him by his enemies, among them that of illiteracy, the truth of which is borne out by the crudeness of his style, and is fully admitted by the writer himself. Before being admitted to deacon's orders he had communicated to a friend some fault which he had committed when about fifteen years of age. This friend had not considered it an obstacle to ordination. Later the secret was betrayed and came to the ears of persons who, as he says, "urged my sins against my laborious episcopate." It is impossible to ascertain who these detractors were - possibly British fellow-workers in Ireland. The other document is the so-called Letter to Coroticus. The soldiers of Coroticus (Ceretic), a British king of Strathclyde, had in the course of a raid in Ireland killed a number of Christian neophytes on the very day of their baptism while still clad in white garments. Others had been carried off into slavery, and a deputation of clergy which Patrick had sent to ask for their release had been subjected to ridicule. In his Letter the saint in very strong language urges the Christian subjects of the British king not to have any dealings with their ruler and his bloodthirsty followers until full satisfaction should have been made. The text of this letter occurs in a number of MSS. but is not contained in the Book of Armagh. It is however certain that it was known in the 7th century. A strange barbaric chant commonly known as the Lorica or Hymn of St Patrick is preserved in the Liber hymnorum. This piece, called in Irish the Faed Fiada or "Cry of the Deer," contains a number of remarkable grammatical forms, and the latest editors are of opinion that it may very well be genuine. From such slender material it is not easy to form a clear conception of the saint's personality. His was evidently an intensely spiritual nature, and in addition to the qualities which go to form a strong man of action he must have possessed an enthusiasm which enabled him to surmount all difficulties. His importance in the history of Ireland and the Irish Church consists in the fact that he brought Ireland into touch with western Europe and more particularly with Rome, and that he introduced Latin into Ireland as the language of the Church. His work consisted largely in organizing the Christian societies which he found in existence on his arrival, and in planting the faith in regions such as the extreme west of Connaught which had not yet come under the sway of the gospel.


- Apart from the Letter and Epistle mentioned above our chief sources of information with regard to the life of St Patrick are contained in the Book of Armagh. The one is the memoir by Tirechan, a bishop who had been the disciple of Bishop Ultan of Ardbraccan in Meath (d. 657). The first part of this memoir, which was probably compiled about 670, deals with the saint's work in Meath, the second with his activity in Connaught. Various additions are appended to this compilation, and there are still further additional notes. The other biography was written towards the end of the 7th century by Muirchu Maccu Machtheni, who dedicated his work to Bishop Aed of Slbbte (d. 700). The first portion deals with Patrick's career down to his arrival in Ireland and contains an unvarnished statement of fact. But when the story passes to Ireland Muirchu's narrative becomes full of the mythical element. The influence of Muirchu's work can be traced in all later biographies. Bury has shown that both Tirechan and Muirchu drew from written material which existed in part at any rate in Irish. Among later lives we may mention the hymn Genair Patraicc, commonly attributed to Fiacc, which is considered by the latest editors to have been originally composed about Boo. Three anonymous Latin lives were published by Colgan in his Trias Thaumaturga (Louvain, 1645), and there exists an 1 ith-century Irish life in three parts published by Whitley Stokes for the Rolls series (1887). A Latin translation of a different copy of this work, now lost, was published by Colgan. Lastly a life by an otherwise unknown Irish writer named Probus occurs in the Basel edition of Bede's works (1563) and was reprinted by Colgan.

See J. B. Bury, The Life of St Patrick and his Place in History (London, 1905); J. H. Todd, St Patrick the Apostle of Ireland (Dublin, 1861); H. Zimmer, article "Keltische Kirche" in Realencyklopadie fitir protestantische Theologie and Kirche (1901; trans. by Miss Meyer, "The Celtic Church in Britain and Ireland," London, 1902); J. Gwynn, Liber Ardmachanus; Whitley Stokes, The Tripartite Life of St Patrick (London, 1887); N. J. D. White, "The Writings of St Patrick" (critical edition) in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (1904). (E. C. Q.)

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Simple English

A statue of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick (c. 402 - March 17, year unknown (probably 491 or 493) is the patron saint of Ireland and Nigeria. He was born in a village in Wales

When he was 16 years old he was captured and sold into slavery. He also married couples when the king prohibited it.

Saint Patrick came from a Christian family. He was the son of Calpornius, who was a deacon. He brought Christianity to Ireland. He converted many pagans to Christianity. He also challenged many of their leaders and druids such as Aodhan the Brave also known as Chief Aodhan. St.Patrick eventually converted Chief Aodhan and they worked together to convert many other pagans.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated every year on March 17 in his honour.

Saint Patrick's Bell

There is a bell in the National Museum of Ireland that was made around the time of Saint Patrick's life. There is no evidence that Saint Patrick owned the bell but the Irish have believed the bell belonged to Saint Patrick for 1400 years. One of the kings of Ulster who was the high king of Ireland at the time had a beautiful cover made out of gold and gems to preserve the bell. The names of the bishops of Ireland were engraved on the cover. The style of the letters on the cover were used to make the first typewriters. It is believed that the bell was rung by Saint Patrick to let people know it was time for church.

Saint Patrick and the snakes

There are no snakes in Ireland but there is a legend that at the time of Saint Patrick there were lots of snakes and he chased them all into the Irish Sea.

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