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Legends and Historic Places of St. Patrick-The Patron Saint of Ireland
From Slave to Saint
Every March 17 we celebrate the memory of Saint Patrick. Who was he really? He was born of a wealthy family, kidnapped into slavery as a child and taken to Ireland. Later he was freed and went back to his life and became a priest, but the story didn't stop there. He went back to Ireland and became its patron saint.
The Early Years of Saint Patrick
Patrick was a Christian missionary and bishop to Ireland in the 400s AD. He was born in 385 AD to wealthy Romano-British parents-Calpurnius and Conchessa. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a Christian church priest. Most of what we know about him comes from his two works. The first is the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and the second Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians.
At fourteen, according to the Declaration which was traditionally said to be written by Patrick himself, at he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved in Gaelic Ireland. He spent six years there working as a shepherd and that during this time God spoke to him. God told him to flee to the coast. There he would find a ship waiting for him to take him home.
Return to the Emerald Isle
Once he returned home, he became a priest. In his thirties, he returned to Ireland to convert the people there to Christianity.
Patrick told of a dream where a man named Victoricus gave him a letter headed ‘The Cry of the Irish.’ Later, a local chieftain, Dichu gave Patrick barn where he started his first church in Saul.
Saint Patrick described himself as a “most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”
He spent many years evangelizing the northern half of Ireland and converted thousands. His efforts to convert, subjugate and drive off Pagan (Celtic) worship. This became the allegory where he drove snakes from Ireland. (Ireland never had actual snakes.).
Saint Patrick is most known for driving the snakes from Ireland. Though there never were any snakes in Ireland because the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age, in many ancient cultures, the serpent symbol was often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic for removing that pagan practice from Ireland. While not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, Patrick is believed to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. Tradition says he converted the warrior chiefs and princes and baptizing them by the thousands in the “Holy Wells” that remain today.
St Patrick's Well, Clonmel
St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
Sites Associated With Saint Patrick
Patrick’s Mountain, also known as Croagh Patrick,( in Irish, spelled, Cruach Phádraig), is a two thousand foot high mountain and an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo. This mountian has been a site of devoted pilgrimages for many years.
Croagh Patrick had been a site of early Pagan pilgrimages even before Saint Patrick for summer solstice gatherings, Today, on the last Sunday in July, known as Reek Sunday, thousands of people climb the mountain. Legend says that St. fasted on this mountain’s summit for forty days in the 400s AD. Remains of a small chapel called “Teampall Phadraig” from St. Patrick’s own time was found near the summit. In 1905 a new chapel has since been built. During the summer, the little church is open every day. Mass is celebrated in the church on Reek Sunday and on 15 August. Visitors make the climb to the summit in about three hours.
Saint Patrick’s Well, Clonmel
Some think that this little Irish stone cross was where Saint Patrick passed through and may have used it as a place to baptize locals into the Christian faith. The stone statue was erected in 1958 by the Saint Patrick’s Day Society.
The Rock of Cashel
Legend says that St. Patrick visited Cashel to meet the powerful Aonghus and also baptized the king there. The Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary is steeped in legend.
Down Cathedral – St Patrick’s Grave Stone
In 1900 a stone was placed in the graveyard of County Down Cathedral, the site where a Benedictine Monastery was built in 1187. According to legend, this memorial stone made from a slab of granite from the nearby Mourne Mountains is said to mark St. Patrick’s burial place. According to centuries of tradition, Saints Brigid, Patrick and Columcille are all buried in this same grave.
Sanctuary of St Patrick, Lough Derg, Co. Donegal
Christian have been making the pilgrimage to the sacred site of St Patrick’s Purgatory ,Lough Derg for centuries. This is a unique island of deep prayer, and is a part of Irish Christian Heritage. This small island resides in a quiet lake.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin was built to honor Ireland’s patron saint. This cathedral stands next to the famous well legend to have been where Saint Patrick baptized new Christian believers when he visited Dublin.
Máméan Pilgrimage in Connemara
Thirty miles away from Croagh Patrick the lesser known Mámean pilgrim site dating back to the 400s AD. At the summit of the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara is the ancient pilgrim site dedicated to St. Patrick lies in a rugged pass called Máméan. Tradition says that St. Patrick traveled through Joyce Country and climbed Mámean to give his blessing to Connemara. Before St. Patrick’s time, the location was connected with the Lughnasa Solstice festivals. Like many pagan sites it was Christianized, evolving into Reek Sunday – the last Sunday in July or the first Sunday in August. The site is marked by a holy well, St. Patrick’s Bed – a cleft in the rock and a circle of stone crosses represent the Stations of the Cross. Completing the shrine is a Mass Rock – used during the eighteenth century penal times when Catholicism was outlawed. St. Patrick’s followers built a small chapel beside St. Patrick’s bed, and a statue depicting St. Patrick as a shepherd. Today parishioners pilgrimage three times a year on St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday and the first Sunday in August. Before they leave, they leave an offering of a variety of objects.
Saint Patrick's Gravestone at Down Cathedral
Where is Saint Patrick Actually Buried?
Tradition says that Saint Patrick Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 460 A.D. His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits, and as a preservative against the “evil eye.” Another account differs saying that St. Patrick was buried at MGlastonbury, England where The Chapel of St. Patrick remains as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Many Catholic churches and chapels around the world bear the name St. Patrick.