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Saint Patrick

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Title: Saint Patrick  
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Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick
Born Great Britain
Honored in
Catholic Church
Eastern Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
Major shrine Armagh, Northern Ireland
Glastonbury Abbey, England
Feast 17 March (Saint Patrick's Day)
Patronage Ireland, Nigeria, Montserrat, Archdiocese of New York, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, Boston, Rolla, Missouri (USA), Loíza, Puerto Rico, Murcia (Spain), engineers, paralegals, Archdiocese of Melbourne; invoked against snakes, sins,[1]

Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius; Proto-Irish: *Qatrikias;[2] Modern Irish: Pádraig ;[3] Welsh: Padrig[4]) was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of the island along with Saints Brigit and Columba.

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.[5] He is generally credited with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

When he was about 16, he was captured from his home in Great Britain by Irish Pirates, and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Day is observed on 17 March, the date of his death.[6] It is celebrated inside and outside Ireland as a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation; it is also a celebration of Ireland itself.


  • Sources 1
    • Dating 1.1
    • The "Two Patricks" theory 1.2
  • Life 2
  • Seventh-century writings 3
  • Symbols and legends 4
    • St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable 4.1
    • St. Patrick banishes all snakes from Ireland 4.2
    • St. Patrick's crosses 4.3
    • St. Patrick's walking stick grows into a living tree 4.4
    • St. Patrick speaks with ancient Irish ancestors 4.5
    • Folk piety 4.6
  • Saint Patrick's Bell 5
  • St. Patrick and Irish identity 6
  • Sainthood and modern remembrance 7
  • Places associated with Saint Patrick 8
  • In literature 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


Two Latin letters survive which are generally accepted to have been written by St. Patrick. These are the Declaration (Latin: Confessio)[7] and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (Latin: Epistola),[8] from which come the only generally accepted details of his life.[9] The Declaration is the more important of the two. In it, Patrick gives a short account of his life and his mission. Most available details of his life are from subsequent hagiographies and annals, and these are now not accepted without detailed criticism.


The reputed burial place of St. Patrick in Downpatrick

The dates of Patrick's life are the subject of conflicting traditions. His own writings provide nothing that can be dated more precisely than the 5th century. Patrick's quotations from the Acts of the Apostles follow the Vulgate, suggesting he was not writing before the early fifth century. The Letter to Coroticus implies that the Franks were still pagans at the time of writing:[10] their conversion to Christianity is dated to the period 496–508.[11]

The Irish annals for the fifth century are not contemporary documents,[12] but were compiled in the mid-6th century at the earliest.[10] The annals date Patrick's arrival in Ireland to 432, but this date was probably artificially chosen to minimise the contribution of Palladius, who was known to have been sent to Ireland in 431, and maximise that of Patrick.[13] A variety of dates are given for his death. In 457 "the elder Patrick" (Irish: Patraic Sen) is said to have died: this may refer to the death of Palladius, who is said in the Book of Armagh to have also been called Patrick.[14] In 461/2 the annals say that "Here some record the repose of Patrick",;[15]:p. 19 in 492/3 they record the death of "Patrick, the arch-apostle (or archbishop and apostle) of the Scoti", on 17 March, at the age of 120.[15]:p. 31

While some modern historians[16] accept the earlier date of c. 460 for Patrick's death, scholars of early Irish history tend to prefer the later date of c. 493. Supporting the later date, the annals record that in 553 "the relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille" (emphasis added).[17] The death of Patrick's disciple Mochta is dated in the annals to 535 or 537,[18][19] and the early hagiographies "all bring Patrick into contact with persons whose obits occur at the end of the fifth century or the beginning of the sixth".[20] However, E. A. Thompson argues that none of the dates given for Patrick's death in the Annals are reliable.[21]

The "Two Patricks" theory

Irish academic T. F. O'Rahilly has proposed the "Two Patricks" theory [22] which suggests that many of the traditions later attached to Saint Patrick actually concerned Palladius, who Prosper of Aquitaine's Chronicle says was sent by Pope Celestine I as the first bishop to Irish Christians in 431. Palladius was not the only early cleric in Ireland at this time. The Irish-born Saint Ciaran Saighir the Elder lived in the later fourth century (352–402) and was the first bishop of Ossory. Ciaran the Elder along with Saints Auxilius, Secundinus and Iserninus are also associated with early churches in Munster and Leinster. By this reading, Palladius was active in Ireland until the 460s.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

Although the evidence for contacts with Gaul is clear, the borrowings from Latin into the Old Irish language show that links with Roman Britain were many.[26] 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;[27] nor can the work of Palladius be uncritically equated with that of Saint Patrick, as was once traditional.[28]


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

St. Patrick was born in [35]

After six years of captivity 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,[36] where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days sailing they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a "wilderness", becoming faint from hunger before encountering a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.[37] After returning home to Britain, Saint Patrick continued to study Christianity.

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." [38]

A. B. E. Hood suggests that the Victoricus of St. Patrick's vision may be identified with Saint Victricius, bishop of Rouen in the late fourth century, who had visited Britain in an official capacity in 396.[39]

He studied in Europe principally at Auxerre, but is thought to have visited the Marmoutier Abbey, Tours and to have received the tonsure at the monastery at Lerins. Saint Germanus of Auxerre ordained the young missionary.[40][41]

Acting on the vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.[35] According to J.B. Bury, his landing place was Wicklow, Co. Wicklow, at the mouth of the river Inver-dea, which is now called the Vartry.[42] J.B. Bury suggests that Wicklow was also the port through which Patrick made his escape after his six years captivity, though offers only circumstantial evidence to support this.[43] Tradition has it that St Patrick was not welcomed by the locals and was forced to leave to seek a more welcoming landing place further north. He rested for some days at the islands off the Skerries coast, one of which still retains the name of Inis-Patrick. The first sanctuary dedicated by St. Patrick was at Saul. Shortly thereafter Benin (or Benignus), son of the chieftain Secsnen, joined Patrick's group.[41]

Much of the Declaration concerns charges made against St. 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.[44]

From this same evidence, something can be seen of St. Patrick's mission. He writes that he "baptised thousands of people".[45] 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.[46]

St. 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.[47] Patrick says that he was also "many years later" a captive for 60 days, without giving details.[48]

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,[49] 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."[50]

The second piece of evidence that 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, St. Patrick writes[51] an open letter announcing that he has excommunicated Coroticus because he had taken some of St. 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 [of Dalriada and later Argyll] and Apostate Picts".[52] Based largely on an eighth-century gloss, Coroticus is taken to be King Ceretic of Alt Clut.[53] Thompson however proposed that based on the evidence it is more likely that Coroticus was a British Roman living in Ireland.[54] It has been suggested that it was the sending of this letter which provoked the trial which Patrick mentions in the Confession.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57]

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.[58] Both writers relied upon an earlier work, now lost, the Book of Ultán.[59] 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.[60] 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)."[61]

Muirchu records much the same information, adding that "[h]is mother was named Concessa."[62] The name Cothirtiacus, however, is simply the Latinized form of Old Irish Cothraige, which is the Q-Celtic form of Latin Patricius.[63]

The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu is a martial figure, who contests with druids, overthrows pagan idols, and curses kings and kingdoms.[64] 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.[65]

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.[66]

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.[67]

Other presumed early materials include the Irish annals, which contain records from the Chronicle of Ireland. These sources have conflated Palladius and Patrick.[68] 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."[69]

Symbols and legends

St. Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parable

St. Patrick depicted with shamrock in detail of stained glass window in St. Benin's Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland

Legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God.[70][71] For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick's Day.

The shamrock had been seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life. Three was a sacred number in the pagan religion and there were a number of "Triple Goddesses" in ancient Ireland, including Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan.

St. Patrick banishes all snakes from Ireland

The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had all been banished by St. Patrick[72] chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill.[73] This hagiographic theme draws on the Biblical account of the staff of the prophet Moses. In Exodus 7:8–7:13, Moses and Aaron use their staffs in their struggle with Pharaoh's sorcerers, the staffs of each side morphing into snakes. Aaron's snake-staff prevails by consuming the other snakes.[74]

Image of St. Patrick banishing the snakes

However, all evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes, as on insular "New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica... So far, no serpent has successfully migrated across the open ocean to a new terrestrial home" such as from Scotland at one point only some twelve miles from Ireland, where a few native species have lived, "the venomous adder, the grass snake, and the smooth snake", as National Geographic notes,[75] and although sea snake species separately exist.[73] "At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish", says naturalist Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, who has searched extensively through Irish fossil collections and records.[73]

The only biological candidate species for appearing like a native snake in Ireland is the slow worm, actually a legless lizard, a non-native species more recently found in The Burren region of County Clare as recorded since the early 1970s, as noted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland, which suspects it was deliberately introduced in the 1960s. So far, the slow worm's territory in the wild has not spread beyond the Burren's limestone region which is rich in wildlife.[75]

One suggestion, by fiction author Betty Rhodes, is that "snakes" referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids[76] during that time and place, as evinced on coins minted in Gaul. Chris Weigant connects "big tattoos of snakes" on Druids' arms as "Irish schoolchildren are taught" with the way in which, in the legend of St. Patrick banishing snakes, the "story goes to the core of Patrick's sainthood and his core mission in Ireland."[77]

Because of his association with snakes, St. Patrick is associated with the deity Damballa in Voodoo.[78]

St. Patrick's crosses

Image of St. Patrick showing cross pattée on his robes

There are two main types of crosses associated with St. Patrick, the cross pattée and the saltire. The cross pattée is the more traditional association, while the association with the saltire dates from 1783 and the Order of St. Patrick.

Logo of Down District Council showing the cross pattée

The cross pattée has long been associated with St. Patrick, for reasons that are uncertain. One possible reason is that bishops' mitres in Ecclesiastical heraldry often appear surmounted by a cross pattée.[79][80] An example of this can be seen on the old crest of the Brothers of St. Patrick.[81] As St. Patrick was the founding bishop of the Irish church, the symbol may have become associated with him. St. Patrick is traditionally portrayed in the vestments of a bishop, and his mitre and garments are often decorated with a cross pattée.[82][83][84] [85] [86]

The cross pattée retains its link to St. Patrick to the present day. For example,it appears on the coat of arms of both the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh[87] and the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Armagh.[88] This is on account of St. Patrick being regarded as the first bishop of the Diocese of Armagh. It is also used by Down District Council which has its headquarters in Downpatrick, the reputed burial place at St. Patrick.

Saint Andrew's Cross of Scotland to form the Union Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. A saltire was intermittently used as a symbol of Ireland from the seventeenth century, but without reference to Saint Patrick.

Photograph of eight home-made badges composed of variously coloured crosses and saltires.
Traditional St. Patrick's Day badges from the early twentieth century, from the Museum of Country Life, Castlebar.

It was formerly a common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon on St Patrick's Day. Surviving examples of such badges come in many colours[89] and they were worn upright rather than as saltires.[90]

Thomas Dinely, an English traveller in Ireland in 1681, remarked that "the Irish of all stations and condicõns were crosses in their hatts, some of pins, some of green ribbon."[91] Jonathan Swift, writing to "Stella" of Saint Patrick's Day 1713, said "the Mall was so full of crosses that I thought all the world was Irish".[92] In the 1740s, the badges pinned were multicoloured interlaced fabric.[93] In the 1820s, they were only worn by children, with simple multicoloured daisy patterns.[93][94] In the 1890s, they were almost extinct, and a simple green Greek cross inscribed in a circle of paper (similar to the Ballina crest pictured).[95] The Irish Times in 1935 reported they were still sold in poorer parts of Dublin, but fewer than those of previous years "some in velvet or embroidered silk or poplin, with the gold paper cross entwined with shamrocks and ribbons".[96]

St. Patrick's walking stick grows into a living tree

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.

St. Patrick speaks with ancient Irish ancestors

The twelfth-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. In the work St. Patrick seeks to convert the warriors to Christianity, while they defend their pagan past. The heroic pagan lifestyle of the warriors, of fighting and feasting and living close to nature, is contrasted with the more peaceful, but unheroic and non-sensual life offered by Christianity.

Folk piety

The version of the details of his life generally accepted by modern scholars, as elaborated by later sources, popular writers and folk piety, typically includes extra details such that Patrick, originally named Maewyn Succat, was born in 387 AD in (among other candidate locations, see above) Banna venta Berniae[97] to the parents Calpernius and Conchessa. At the age of 16 in 403 AD Saint Patrick was captured and enslaved by the Irish and was sent to Ireland to serve as a slave herding and tending sheep in Dalriada.[98] During his time in captivity Saint Patrick became fluent in the Irish language and culture. After six years Saint Patrick escaped captivity after hearing a voice urging him to travel to a distant port where a ship would be waiting to take him back to Britain.[99] On his way back to Britain Saint Patrick was captured again and spent 60 days in captivity in Tours, France. During his short captivity within France, Saint Patrick learned about French monasticism. At the end of his second captivity Saint Patrick had a vision of Victoricus giving him the quest of bringing Christianity to Ireland.[100] Following his second captivity Saint Patrick returned to Ireland and, using the knowledge of Irish language and culture that he gained during his first captivity, brought Christianity and monasticism to Ireland in the form of more than 300 churches and over 100,000 Irish baptised.[101]

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, an early-modern compilation of earlier annals, his corpse soon became an object of conflict in the Battle for the Body of St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick's Bell

The Shrine of St. Patrick's Bell

The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin possesses a bell first mentioned, according 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" removed from his tomb sixty years after his death by Colum Cille to be used as relics. The bell is described as "The Bell of the Testament", one of three relics of "precious minna" (extremely valuable items), of which the other two are described as Patrick's goblet and "The Angels Gospel". Colum Cille is described to have been under the direction of an "Angel" for whom he sent the goblet to Down, the bell to Armagh, and kept possession of the Angel's Gospel for himself. The name Angels Gospel is given to the book because it was supposed that Colum Cille received it from the angel's hand. A stir was caused in 1044 when two kings, in some dispute over 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."

The bell was encased in a "bell shrine", a distinctive Irish type of reliquary made for it, as an inscription records, by King Domnall Ua Lochlainn sometime between 1091 and 1105. The shrine is an important example of the final, Viking-influenced, style of Irish Celtic art, with intricate Urnes style decoration in gold and silver. The Gaelic inscription on the shrine also records the name of the maker "U INMAINEN" (which translates to "Noonan"), "who with his sons enriched/decorated it"; metalwork was often inscribed for remembrance.

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 King Domnall Ua Lochlainn'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 shield it from human eyes, for which it would be too holy. It measures 12.5 × 10 cm at the base, 12.8 × 4 cm at the shoulder, 16.5 cm from base to shoulder, 3.3 cm from shoulder to top of handle and weighs 1.7 kg.[102]

St. Patrick and Irish identity

St. Patrick features in many stories in the Irish oral tradition and there are many customs connected with his feast day. The folklorist Jenny Butler[103] discusses how these traditions have been given new layers of meaning over time while also becoming tied to Irish identity both in Ireland and abroad. The symbolic resonance of the St. Patrick figure is complex and multifaceted, stretching from that of Christianity’s arrival in Ireland to an identity that encompasses everything Irish. In some portrayals, the saint is symbolically synonymous with the Christian religion itself. There is also evidence of a combination of indigenous religious traditions with that of Christianity, which places St Patrick in the wider framework of cultural hybridity. Popular religious expression has this characteristic feature of merging elements of culture. Later in time, the saint becomes associated specifically with Catholic Ireland and synonymously with Irish national identity. Subsequently, St. Patrick is a patriotic symbol along with the colour green and the shamrock. St. Patrick's Day celebrations include many traditions that are known to be relatively recent historically, but have endured through time because of their association either with religious or national identity. They have persisted in such a way that they have become stalwart traditions, viewed as the strongest "Irish traditions".

Sainthood and modern remembrance

The neo-gothic St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, as seen from Rockefeller Center

17 March, popularly known as St. Patrick's Day, is believed to be his death date and is the date celebrated as his Feast Day.[104] The day became a feast day in the Catholic 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 in the early part of the seventeenth century.[105]

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 very holy, 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.[106]

St. Patrick is honoured with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) and with a commemoration on the calendar of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, both on 17 March. St. Patrick is also venerated in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians living in Ireland, the UK and in the USA.[107] There are Orthodox icons dedicated to him.[108]

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. 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.[109]

Places associated with Saint Patrick

Slemish, County Antrim
St Patrick's statue at Saul, County Down
St Patrick's Oratory at the top of Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
When captured by raiders, there are two theories as to where Patrick was enslaved. One theory is that he herded sheep in the countryside around Slemish. Another theory is that Patrick herded sheep near Killala Bay, at a place called Fochill.
It is claimed that Patrick founded his first church in a barn at Saul, which was donated to him by a local chieftain called Dichu. It is also claimed that Patrick died at Saul or was brought there between his death and burial. Nearby, on the crest of Slieve Patrick, is a huge statue of Saint Patrick with bronze panels showing scenes from his life.
Muirchu moccu Machtheni, in his highly mythologised seventh-century Life of Patrick, says that Patrick lit a Paschal fire on this hilltop in 433 in defiance of High King Laoire. The story says that the fire could not be doused by anyone but Patrick, and it was here that he explained the holy trinity using the shamrock.
It is claimed that Patrick climbed this mountain and fasted on its summit for the forty days of Lent. Croagh Patrick draws thousands of pilgrims who make the trek to the top on the last Sunday in July.
It is claimed that Patrick killed a large serpent on this lake and that its blood turned the water red (hence the name). Each August, pilgrims spend three days fasting and praying there on Station Island.
It is claimed that Patrick founded a church here and proclaimed it to be the most holy church in Ireland. Armagh is today the primary seat of both the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland, and both cathedrals in the town are named after Patrick.
  • Downpatrick, County Down (from Irish: Dún Pádraig, meaning "Patrick's stronghold")[113]
It is claimed that Patrick was brought here after his death and buried in the grounds of Down Cathedral.

Other places named after Saint Patrick include:

In literature

  • Robert Southey wrote a ballad called Saint Patrick's Purgatory, based on popular legends surrounding the saint's name.
  • Patrick is mentioned in a 17th-century ballad about "
  • Stephen R. Lawhead wrote the fictional Patrick: Son of Ireland based on the life of the celebrated Saint.[118]

See also


  1. ^ "Saints by Cause". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  2. ^ O'Rahilly, Thos. The Two Patricks: A Lecture on the History of Christianity in Fifth-century Ireland, pp. 43–44. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1942.
  3. ^ Old Irish: Cothraige or Coithrige; Middle Irish: Pátraic.
  4. ^ Old and Middle Welsh: Padric.
  5. ^ "All About Saint Patrick's Day". Church Year. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "St. Patrick's Day". The History Channel. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  7. ^ MacAnnaidh, S. 2013. Irish History. Parragon Books Ltd. ISBN 978-4723-2723-9
  8. ^ Both texts in original Latin, various translations and with images of all extant manuscript testimonies on the "Saint Patrick's Confessio HyperStack website". Royal Irish Academy Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Macthéni, Muirchú maccu; White, Newport John Davis (1920). St. Patrick, his writings and life. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 31–51, 54–60. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Ó Cróinín 1995, p. 26
  11. ^ Stancliffe.
  12. ^ Byrne 1973, p. 78
  13. ^ Byrne 1973, pp. 78–79)
  14. ^ Byrne 1973, p. 79
  15. ^ a b Hennessy, W. M. (trans.) Annals of Ulster; otherwise, Annals of Senat, Vol. I. Alexander Thom & Co. (Dublin), 1887. Accessed 10 February 2013.
  16. ^ See Dumville, pp. 116–12; Wood, p. 45 n. 5.
  17. ^ De Paor, p. 122.
  18. ^ De Paor, p. 121.
  19. ^ Ó Cróinín 1995, p. 27
  20. ^ Byrne 1973, p. 80
  21. ^ Thompson, E. A., Who Was Saint Patrick?, The Boydell Press, 1999, pp. 166-175
  22. ^ O'Rahilly, The two Patricks, Dublin 1942
  23. ^ Byrne, pp. 78–79; De Paor, pp. 6–7 & 88–89; Duffy, pp. 16–17; Fletcher, p.300–306; Yorke, p. 112.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Duffy, pp. 16–17; Thomas, p. 305.
  26. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 184–187; Thomas, pp. 297–300; Yorke, pp. 112–114.
  27. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 233–240.
  28. ^ O'Rahilly (1942). The two Patricks. Dublin. 
  29. ^ X.—An Inquiry as to the Birthplace of St. Patrick. By J.H. TURNER, M.A. p.268. Read before the Society, 8 January 1872. Archaeologica Scotica pp. 261–284. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 5, 1890.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ MacNeill, Eoin (1926). "Papers read for the Royal Irish Academy". Dublin: Hodges, Figgis. pp. 118–140. Retrieved 17 March 2013  – 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 Uí Liatháin and possibly also Déisi settlers during this time, so Irish raiders would have had the contacts to tell them precisely where to go 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.
  32. ^ The  
  33. ^ "Who is Saint Patrick?". Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  34. ^ "St. Patrick". Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  35. ^ a b c d "Confession of St Patrick". 2013-04-07. 
  36. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick, Part 17". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  37. ^ De Paor, pp. 99–100; Charles-Edwards, p. 229; Confessio; 17–19
  38. ^ 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; Confessio; 17
  39. ^ Hood p. 4
  40. ^ Bridgwater, William and Kurtz, Seymour. editors. (1963). "Saint Patrick". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Third Edition. NY: Columbia University Press, pp 1611-2.
  41. ^ a b Moran, Patrick Francis Cardinal. "St. Patrick." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 6 Nov. 2014
  42. ^ Bury, J.B., The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History, p. 81
  43. ^ Bury, p.31.
  44. ^ Thomas, pp. 337–341; De Paor, pp. 104–107; Charles-Edwards, pp. 217–219.
  45. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick, Part 50". Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  46. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 219–225; Thomas, pp. 337–341; De Paor, pp. 104–107.
  47. ^ De Paor, p. 107; Charles-Edwards, p. 221–222.
  48. ^ Confessio; 21
  49. ^ This is presumed to refer to St. Patrick's tonsure.
  50. ^ After Ó Cróinín, p.32; De Paor, p. 180. See also Ó Cróinín, pp. 30–33.
  51. ^ "Letter To Coroticus, by Saint St. Patrick". Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  52. ^  
  53. ^ De Paor, pp. 109–113; Charles-Edwards, pp. 226–230.
  54. ^ Thompson, E. A.; G. B. Caird, Henry Chadwick (ed.) (1980). "St. Patrick and Coroticus". The Journal of Theological Studies 31: 12–27.  
  55. ^ Thomas, pp. 339 – 343.
  56. ^ De Paor, pp. 141–143; Charles-Edwards, p. 182–183. Bede, writing a century later, refers to Palladius only.
  57. ^ De Paor, pp 151–153; Charles-Edwards, p. 182–183.
  58. ^ Both texts in original Latin and English translations and images of the Book of Armagh manuscript copy on the "Saint Patrick's Confessio HyperStack website". Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  59. ^ 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.
  60. ^ Annals of Ulster, AU 657.1: "Obitus... Ultán moccu Conchobair."
  61. ^ De Paor, p. 154.
  62. ^ De Paor, pp. 175 & 177.
  63. ^ White, Newport J. D. (1920). "St. Patrick, His Writings and Life". New York: The Macmillan Co. p. 110. Retrieved 17 March 2013 
  64. ^ Their works are found in De Paor, pp. 154–174 & 175–197 respectively.
  65. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 224–226.
  66. ^ 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.
  67. ^ Charles-Edwards, pp. 416–417 & 429–440.
  68. ^ The relevant annals are reprinted in De Paor, pp. 117–130.
  69. ^ De Paor's conclusions at p. 135, the document itself is given at pp. 135–138.
  70. ^ St. Patrick's Day Facts: Snakes, a Slave, and a Saint National Geographic Retrieved 10 February 2011
  71. ^ Threlkeld, Caleb Synopsis stirpium Hibernicarum alphabetice dispositarum, sive, Commentatio de plantis indigenis præsertim Dublinensibus instituta. With An appendix of observations made upon plants, by Dr. Molyneux, 1726, cited in "shamrock, n.", The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. 1989
  72. ^ Robinson, William Erigena. New Haven Hibernian Provident Society. St. Patrick and the Irish: an oration, before the Hibernian Provident Society, of New Haven, 17 March 1842. p. 8. [1]
  73. ^ a b c "Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick – National Geographic News". Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  74. ^ Hassig, Debra, The mark of the beast: the medieval bestiary in art, life, and literature (Taylor & Francis, 1999)
  75. ^ a b "Snakeless in Ireland: Blame Ice Age, Not St. Patrick – National Geographic News". Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  76. ^ Keeper of the Celtic Secrets Google Books Retrieved 20 February 2011
  77. ^ Weigant, Chris, "Saint Patrick and the Snakes," (Huffington Post, March 17, 2010)
  78. ^
  79. ^ Heraldic Dictionary – Crowns, Helmets, Chaplets & Chapeaux
  80. ^ An Archbishop's Mitre | ClipArt ETC
  81. ^ Patrician Brothers Crest
  82. ^ Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
  83. ^ St. Patrick
  84. ^ Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2011
  85. ^ Our Stained Glass Windows – St. Patrick
  86. ^ Optional Memorial of St. Patrick, bishop and confessor (Solemnity Aus, Ire, Feast New Zeal, Scot, Wales) – March 17, 2012 – Liturgical Calendar – Catholic Culture
  87. ^ Archdiocese of Armagh
  88. ^ The Church of Ireland Diocese of Armagh | For information about the Church of Ireland Diocese of Armagh
  89. ^ Hayes-McCoy, p.40
  90. ^ Morley, Vincent (27 September 2007). "St. Patrick's Cross". Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  91. ^ Colgan, Nathaniel (1896). "The Shamrock in Literature: a critical chronology". Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland ( 
  92. ^ Swift, Jonathan (2008). "Letter 61". Journal to Stella. eBooks@Adelaide.  
  93. ^ a b The popular songs of Ireland, pp.7–9 collected and ed., with intr. and notes, By Thomas Crofton Croker Published 1839
  94. ^ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol. 18, plate facing p.249 'Kilmalkedar'; fig.4 is "St. Patrick's Cross" [p.251] of children in S. of Irl. c. 1850s
  95. ^ Colgan, p.351, fn.2
  96. ^ "Irishman's Diary: The Patrick's Cross".  
  97. ^ "Saint Patrick, Bishop". SacredSpace. 
  98. ^ "Saint Patrick. Biography". The Biography Channel Website. 
  99. ^ Cusack, Margaret. "St. Patrick's Captivity". 
  100. ^ "Confession of St. Patrick". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 
  101. ^ "The Religious Affiliation of St. Patrick who brought Christianity to Ireland". 
  102. ^ Treasures of early Irish art, 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D.: from the collections of the National Museum of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, Dublin, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), bell No. 45, shrine # 61; The Bellshrine of St. Patrick, Clan McLaughlan website
  103. ^ Butler, Jenny (2012), "St. Patrick, Folklore and Irish National Identity" 84–101 in Heimo, Anne; Hovi, Tuomas; Vasenkari, Maria, ed. Saint Urho – Pyhä Urho – From Fakelore To Folklore, University of Turku: Finland. ISBN 978-951-29-4897-0
  104. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Πατρίκιος Ἀπόστολος τῆς Ἰρλανδίας. 17 Μαρτίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  105. ^ "The Catholic Encyclopedia: Luke Wadding". Retrieved 15 February 2007. 
  106. ^ "Ask a Franciscan: Saints Come From All Nations – March 2001 Issue of St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online". Retrieved 25 August 2006. 
  107. ^ "St Patrick the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland". Retrieved 11 November 2007. 
  108. ^ "Icon of St. Patrick". Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  109. ^ About Us The Saint Patrick Centre Retrieved 20 February 2011
  110. ^ "Placenames NI – The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project". Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  111. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  112. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  113. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  114. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  115. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  116. ^ "Bunachar Logainmneacha na hÉireann – Placenames Database of Ireland". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  117. ^ "Saint Patrick's Cross Liverpool". Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  118. ^ "Patrick: Son of Ireland | Books". 23 August 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2009. 

Further reading

  • De Paor, Liam (1993). Saint Patrick's World: The Christian Culture of Ireland's Apostolic Age. Dublin: Four Courts Press.  
  • Duffy, Seán,, ed. (1997). Atlas of Irish History. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.  
  • Hood, A. B. E (1978). St. Patrick: his Writings, and Muirchú's Life. London and Chichester: Phillimore.  
  • 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 
  • Iannello, Fausto (2012), "Il modello paolino nell’Epistola ad milites Corotici di san Patrizio, Bollettino di Studi Latini 42/1: 43-63
  • Iannello, Fausto (2013), "Notes and Considerations on the Importance of St. Patrick's Epistola ad Milites Corotici as a Source on the Origins of Celtic Christianity and Sub-Roman Britain". Imago Temporis. Medium Aevum 7 2013: 97-137
  • MacQuarrie, Alan (1997). The Saints of Scotland: Essays in Scottish Church History AD 450–1093. Edinburgh: John Donald.  
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2000). "Celtic Theology". London: Continuum 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2005). "Discovering Saint Patrick". New York: Orbis 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2005). Analecta Bollandiana 123: 79–89 
  • O'Loughlin, Thomas (2007). Nagy, J. F., ed. The myth of Insularity and nationality in Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press. pp. 132–140 
  • Stancliffe, Claire (2004). 5th cent.)"fl."Patrick (. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 February 2007. 
  • Thompson, E. A.; G. B. Caird, Henry Chadwick (ed.) (1980). "St. Patrick and Coroticus". The Journal of Theological Studies 31: 12–27.  
  • Wood, Ian (2001). The Missionary Life: Saints and the Evangelisation of Europe 400–1050. London: Longman.  

External links

  • The Most Ancient Lives of Saint Patrick, edited by James O'Leary, 1880, from Project Gutenberg.
  • BBC: Religion & Ethics, Christianity: Saint Patrick (Incl. audio)
  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patristica Latina with analytical indexes
  • CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts at University College Cork includes Patrick's Confessio and Epistola, as well as various lives of Saint Patrick.
  • Saint Patrick's Confessio Hypertext Stack as published by the Royal Irish Academy Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (DMLCS) freely providing digital scholarly editions of St Patrick's writings as well as translations and digital facsimiles of all extant manuscript copies.
  • History Saint Patrick – Historical Man and Popular Myth by Elva Johnston (University College Dublin)
  • St. Patrick Timeline | Church History Timelines
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