Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius, Irish: Naomh Pádraig), said to have been born Maewyn Succat (Latin:
Magonus Succetus), was a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary and is the patron saint of
Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. When he was about sixteen he was captured
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 later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the
north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked and no link can
be made between Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint
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.

The available body of evidence does not allow the dates of Patrick's life to be fixed with certainty,
but it appears that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth
century. Two letters from him survive, along with later hagiographies from the seventh century
onwards. Many of these works cannot be taken as authentic traditions. Uncritical acceptance of
Annals of Ulster  (a chronicle of medieval Ireland) would imply that he lived from 340 to 460,
and ministered in what is modern day northern Ireland from 428 onwards.


Slemish, County Antrim, where Patrick is said to have worked as a herdsman 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

Patrick was born at Banna Venta Berniae. 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.
Patrick worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years. He writes that his faith grew in
captivity, and that he prayed daily. 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, where he found a ship and, after various adventures, returned home to his
family, now in his early twenties.

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.

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.

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

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.

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, 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."

The second piece of evidence which comes from Patrick's life is the Letter to Coroticus or Letter to
the Soldiers of Coroticus. In this, Patrick writes an open letter announcing that he has
excommunicated certain Brythonic warriors of Coroticus who have raided in Ireland, along with
Picts and Irishmen, taking some of Patrick's converts into slavery. Coroticus, based largely on an 8th
century gloss, is taken to be King Ceretic of Alt Clut. It has been suggested that it was the sending of
this letter which provoked the trial which Patrick mentions in the Confession.

According to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals, Patrick died in AD 461, a date
accepted by some modern historians. 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. 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 meld 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.

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 pagan. Their conversion is dated to the period 496–508.

The compiler of the Annals of Ulster stated that in the year 553:

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.

The reputed burial place of St. Patrick in Downpatrick

The placing of this event in the year 553 would certainly seem to place Patrick's death in 493, or at
least in the early years of that decade, and indeed the Annals of Ulster report in 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 baptize the Irish.

There is also the additional evidence of his disciple, Mochta, who died in 535.

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 Downjohn 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.  See also
The Legend of Saint Patrick

Source: Wikipedia
St Patrick's Day
About Saint Patrick
St Patrick's Day
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