Will the real St. Patrick please stand up.

St-PatrickOne of the most celebrated feast days is March 17th, the feast of St. Patrick. Named “The Apostle of Ireland“, his cult has been strongest where there have been Irish immigrants, notably the United States and Australia. Here in Montreal we have St. Patrick’s basilica and New York’s principle cathedral in named the same. Unfortunately the popular legends about him are all created much later. There is no evidence to support that he taught the concept of the trinity by using the shamrock. He certainly did not convert all of Ireland single-handed; the process took numerous missionaries and many generations to accomplish. The most famous legend recounts that while on a mountain retreat, Patrick was accosted by snakes and in return he chased the snakes to the sea and out of Ireland. The scientific fact is that Ireland never had snakes! However, St. Patrick’s actual life is as interesting as his hagiography.

The only reliable information about Patrick comes from his own writings, two of which remain. The son of a deacon and grandson of a priest, Patrick was born in Northern England in the early years of the 5th century. As a youngster he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and made into a slave for six years. After having a prophetic dream about his release, he either escaped or was freed and made his way two hundred miles to a seaport. There he eventually gained passage on a ship and returned to his family. St.PatrickBack home he undertook basic training as a priest, which consisted mainly of study of the Latin Bible (Vulgate). At the time, the Pope had sent (St.) Palladius as the first Bishop of Ireland but his mission did not last very long. Patrick became the second Bishop and went to Ireland in 435. He set himself up at Armagh, close to a powerful king. From there he organized missionary activity in the North. Patrick preached against slavery, paganism, sun worship and idolatry. Also, he made no distinction of classes among men. He is presumed to have died around 460.  Along with St. Brigid and St. Columba, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Katri
    Mar 17, 2013 @ 10:48:13

    These are my favorite kinds of posts! I always enjoy reading about the legends associated to the various saints. Thanks Sach for making a history-nerd so happy!


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