Saint Patrick was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigit of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was never formally canonised, having lived prior to the current laws of the Catholic Church in these matters. Nevertheless, he is venerated as a Saint in the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where he is regarded as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland. He is also regarded as a Saint within the framework of their respective doctrine by the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Churches.
The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is broad agreement that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century. Nevertheless, as the most recent biography on Patrick shows, a late fourth-century date for the saint is not impossible. Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and regards him as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism. He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence in Ireland.
According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there 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 a 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 supposed date of his death. 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.
NameThe only name that Patrick uses for himself in his own writings is , which gives Old Irish Pátraic and Modern Irish Pádraig ; English Patrick; Scottish Gaelic Pàdraig; Welsh Padrig; Cornish Petroc.
Hagiography records other names he is said to have borne. Tírechán's seventh-century Collectanea gives: "Magonus, that is, famous; Succetus, that is, god of war; Patricius, that is, father of the citizens; Cothirthiacus, because he served four houses of druids." "Magonus" appears in the ninth century Historia Brittonum as Maun, descending from British *Magunos, meaning "servant-lad". "Succetus", which also appears in Muirchú moccu Machtheni's seventh century Life as Sochet, is identified by Mac Neill as "a word of British origin meaning swineherd". Cothirthiacus also appears as Cothraige in the 8th century biographical poem known as Fiacc's Hymn and a variety of other spellings elsewhere, and is taken to represent a Primitive Irish *Qatrikias, although this is disputed. Harvey argues that Cothraige "has the form of a classic Old Irish tribal name", noting that Ail Coithrigi is a name for the Rock of Cashel, and the place-names Cothrugu and Catrige are attested in Counties Antrim and Carlow.
DatingThe dates of Patrick's life are uncertain; there are conflicting traditions regarding the year of his death. His own writings provide no evidence for any dating more precise than the 5th century generally. His Biblical quotations are a mixture of the Old Latin version and the Vulgate, completed in the early 5th century, suggesting he was writing "at the point of transition from Old Latin to Vulgate", although it is possible the Vulgate readings may have been added later, replacing earlier readings. The Letter to Coroticus implies that the Franks were still pagans at the time of writing: their conversion to Christianity is dated to the period 496–508.
The Irish annals for the fifth century date Patrick's arrival in Ireland at 432, but they were compiled in the mid 6th century at the earliest. The date 432 was probably chosen to minimise the contribution of Palladius, who was known to have been sent to Ireland in 431, and maximise that of Patrick. A variety of dates are given for his death. In 457 "the elder Patrick" is said to have died: this may refer to the death of Palladius, who according to the Book of Armagh was also called Patrick. In 461/2 the annals say that "Here some record the repose of Patrick"; in 492/3 they record the death of "Patrick, the arch-apostle of the Scoti", on 17 March, at the age of 120.
While some modern historians accept the earlier date of c. 460 for Patrick's death, scholars of early Irish history tend to prefer a later date, 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". The death of Patrick's disciple Mochta is dated in the annals to 535 or 537, 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". However, E. A. Thompson argues that none of the dates given for Patrick's death in the Annals are reliable. A recent biography argues that a late fourth-century date for the saint is not impossible.
"Two Patricks" theoryIrish academic T. F. O'Rahilly proposed the "Two Patricks" theory, which suggests that many of the traditions later attached to Saint Patrick actually concerned the aforementioned 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 Ciarán of Saigir lived in the later fourth century and was the first bishop of Ossory. Ciaran, along with saints Auxilius, Secundinus and Iserninus, is also associated with early churches in Munster and Leinster. By this reading, Palladius was active in Ireland until the 460s.
Prosper associates Palladius' appointment with the visits of Germanus of Auxerre to Britain to suppress Pelagianism 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. 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.
Although the evidence for contacts with Gaul is clear, the borrowings from Latin into Old Irish show that links with Roman Britain were many. 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 Ceinnselaig in Leinster. The Palladian mission should not be contrasted with later "British" missions, but forms a part of them; nor can the work of Palladius be uncritically equated with that of Saint Patrick, as was once traditional.
LifePatrick was born in Roman Britain. His birthplace is not known with any certainty; some traditions place it in England—one identifying it as Glannoventa. De Paor glosses it as " Carlisle" and Thomas argues at length for the areas of Birdoswald, twenty miles east of Carlisle on Hadrian's Wall. There is a Roman town known as Bannaventa in Northamptonshire, but this is likely too far from the sea. Claims have also been advanced for locations in both present-day Scotland and Wales.
His father, Calpurnius, was a decurion and deacon, his grandfather Potitus was a priest from Bonaven Tabernia, Patrick, however, was not an active believer.
According to the Confession of Saint Patrick, at the age of sixteen he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They took him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in the Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.
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, 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" and becoming faint from hunger. After Patrick prayed for sustenance, they encountered 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. After returning home to Britain, 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."
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. However, Ludwig Bieler disagrees.
Patrick studied in Europe principally at Auxerre, but is thought to have visited the Marmoutier Abbey, Tours and to have received the tonsure at Lérins Abbey. Saint Germanus of Auxerre, a bishop of the Western Church, ordained him to the priesthood.
Acting on his vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. 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. Bury suggests that Wicklow was also the port through which Patrick made his escape after his six years' captivity, though he offers only circumstantial evidence to support this. Tradition has it that Patrick was not welcomed by the locals and was forced to leave and 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 Patrick was at Saul. Shortly thereafter Benin, son of the chieftain Secsnen, joined Patrick's group.
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.
The condemnation might have contributed to his decision to return to Ireland. According to Patrick's most recent biographer, Roy Flechner, the Confessio was written in part as a defence against his detractors, who did not believe that he was taken to Ireland as a slave, despite Patrick's vigorous insistence that he was. Patrick eventually returned to Ireland, probably settling in the west of the island, where, in later life, he became a bishop and ordained subordinate clerics.
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. The Confessio is generally vague about the details of his work in Ireland, though giving some specific instances. This is partly because, as he says at points, he was writing for a local audience of Christians who knew him and his work. There are several mentions of travelling around the island, and of sometimes difficult interactions with the ruling elite. He does claim of the Irish:
Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!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. Patrick says that he was also "many years later" a captive for 60 days, without giving details.
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 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, Patrick writes 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 and Apostate Picts". Based largely on an eighth-century gloss, Coroticus is taken to be King Ceretic of Alt Clut. Thompson however proposed that based on the evidence it is more likely that Coroticus was a British Roman living in Ireland. It has been suggested that it was the sending of this letter which provoked the trial which Patrick mentions in the Confession.
Seventh-century writingsAn 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. Writing on the Easter controversy in 632 or 633, Cummian—it is uncertain whether this is Cumméne Fota, associated with Clonfert, or Cumméne Find—does refer to Patrick, calling him "our papa"; that is, pope or primate.
Two works by late seventh-century hagiographers of Patrick have survived. These are the writings of Tírechán and the Vita sancti Patricii of Muirchú moccu Machtheni. Both writers relied upon an earlier work, now lost, the Book of Ultán. 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. 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 ; Succetus ; Patricius ; Cothirtiacus."
Muirchu records much the same information, adding that "is mother was named Concessa". The name Cothirtiacus, however, is simply the Latinised form of Old Irish Cothraige, which is the Q-Celtic form of Latin Patricius.
The Patrick portrayed by Tírechán and Muirchu is a martial figure, who contests with druids, overthrows pagan idols, and curses kings and kingdoms. 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.
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.
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.
Other presumed early materials include the Irish annals, which contain records from the Chronicle of Ireland. These sources have conflated Palladius and Patrick. 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."
Patrick uses shamrock in an illustrative parableLegend credits 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. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for Saint Patrick's Day.
In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided Patrick in his evangelisation efforts when he "held up a shamrock and discoursed on the Christian Trinity". Patricia Monaghan says there is no evidence that the shamrock was sacred to the pagan Irish. However, Jack Santino speculates that it may have represented the regenerative powers of nature, and was recast in a Christian context. Icons of St Patrick often depict the saint "with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other". Roger Homan writes, "We can perhaps see St Patrick drawing upon the visual concept of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the Trinity".
Patrick banishes all snakes from IrelandThe absence of snakes in Ireland has been noted from as early as the third century by Gaius Julius Solinus, but later legend has attributed the banishment of all reptiles from the island to Patrick. As Roy Flechner shows in his biography, the earliest text to mention an Irish saint banishing snakes from Ireland is in fact the Life of Saint Columba, written in the late seventh or early eighth century. The earliest written record of a legend about Patrick ridding Ireland of venomous creatures date to the thirteenth century by Gerald of Wales, who expressed scepticism about the veracity of the story. The more familiar version of the legend is given by Jocelyn of Furness, who says that the snakes had all been banished by Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. The hagiographic theme of banishing snakes may draw on the Biblical account of the staff of the prophet Moses. In, Moses and Aaron use their staffs in their struggle with Pharaoh's sorcerers, the staffs of each side turning into snakes. Aaron's snake-staff prevails by consuming the other snakes.
However, all evidence suggests that. "At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so 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.
Patrick's walking stick grows into a living treeSome Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig. During his evangelising journey back to Ireland from his parents' home, 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, 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.
Patrick speaks with ancient Irish ancestorsThe 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 pietyThe 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 Banna venta Berniae to the parents Calpernius and Conchessa. At the age of 16 in 403 AD Patrick was captured and enslaved by the Irish and was sent to Ireland to serve as a slave herding and tending sheep in Dalriada. During his time in captivity Patrick became fluent in the Irish language and culture. After six years, 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. On his way back to Britain, Patrick was captured again and spent 60 days in captivity in Tours, France. During his short captivity within France, Patrick learned about French monasticism. At the end of his second captivity Patrick had a vision of Victoricus giving him the quest of bringing Christianity to Ireland. Following his second captivity Patrick returned to Ireland and, using the knowledge of Irish language and culture that he had 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. In more modern Irish folklore Saint Patrick is a recurring figure in Folk Christianity and folktales.
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 Saint Patrick :
Abduction reinterpretedAccording to Patrick's own account, it was Irish raiders who brought him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. However, a recent alternative interpretation of Patrick's departure to Ireland suggests that, as the son of a decurion, he would have been obliged by Roman law to serve on the town council, but chose instead to abscond from the onerous obligations of this office by fleeing abroad, as many others in his position had done in what has become known as the 'flight of the curiales'. Roy Flechner also asserts the improbability of an escape from servitude and journey of the kind that Patrick purports to have undertaken. He also draws attention to the biblical allusions in Patrick's own account, which imply that perhaps parts of the account may not have been intended to be understood literally.
Saint Patrick's crossesThere are two main types of crosses associated with 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.
The cross pattée has long been associated with Patrick, for reasons that are uncertain. One possible reason is that bishops' mitres in Ecclesiastical heraldry often appear surmounted by a cross pattée. An example of this can be seen on the old crest of the Brothers of St. Patrick. As Patrick was the founding bishop of the Irish church, the symbol may have become associated with him. Patrick is traditionally portrayed in the vestments of a bishop, and his mitre and garments are often decorated with a cross pattée.
The cross pattée retains its link to Patrick to the present day. For example, it appears on the coat of arms of both the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh and the Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Armagh. This is on account of 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 of Patrick.
Saint Patrick's Saltire is a red saltire on a white field. It is used in the insignia of the Order of Saint Patrick, established in 1783, and after the Acts of Union 1800 it was combined with the Saint George's Cross of England and the 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 Patrick.
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 and they were worn upright rather than as saltires.
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." 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". In the 1740s, the badges pinned were multicoloured interlaced fabric. In the 1820s, they were only worn by children, with simple multicoloured daisy patterns. In the 1890s, they were almost extinct, and a simple green Greek cross inscribed in a circle of paper. 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".
Saint Patrick's BellThe 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", 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", "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.
Saint Patrick and Irish identityPatrick features in many stories in the Irish oral tradition and there are many customs connected with his feast day. The folklorist Jenny Butler 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 Saint 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, Saint Patrick is a patriotic symbol along with the colour green and the shamrock. Saint 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 remembrance17 March, popularly known as Saint 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 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 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 very holy, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints. As a result, Patrick has never been formally canonised by a pope; nevertheless, various Christian churches declare that he is a saint in Heaven. He is still widely venerated in Ireland and elsewhere today.
Patrick is honoured with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church and with a commemoration on the calendar of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, both on 17 March. Patrick is also venerated in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians living in Ireland, the UK and in the US. There are Orthodox icons dedicated to him.
Patrick is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, alongside Saint Brigid and Saint 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 Patrick. It provides the only permanent exhibition centre in the world devoted to Patrick.
Places associated with Saint Patrick
- Slemish, County Antrim and Killala Bay, County Mayo
- Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, UK
- Saul, County Down
- Hill of Slane, County Meath
- Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
- Lough Derg, County Donegal
- Armagh, County Armagh
- Downpatrick, County Down
- Patrickswell Lane, a well in Drogheda Town where St. Patrick opened a monastery and baptised the townspeople.
- Ardpatrick, County Limerick
- Patrick Water, Elderslie, Renfrewshire. from Scots' Gaelic "AlltPadraig" meaning Patrick's Burn
- Patrickswell or Toberpatrick, County Limerick
- St Patrick's Chapel, Heysham
- St Patrick's Island, County Dublin
- Old Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, Scotland from "Cill Phàdraig," Patrick's Church, a claimant to his birthplace
- St Patrick's Isle, off the Isle of Man
- St. Patricks, Newfoundland and Labrador, a community in the Baie Verte district of Newfoundland
- Llanbadrig, Ynys Badrig, Porth Padrig, Llyn Padrig, and Rhosbadrig on the island of Anglesey in Wales
- Templepatrick, County Antrim
- St Patrick's Hill, Liverpool, on old maps of the town near to the former location of "St Patrick's Cross"
- Parroquia San Patricio y Espiritu Santo. Loiza, Puerto Rico. The site was initially mentioned in 1645 as a chapel. The actual building was completed by 1729, is one of the oldest churches in the Americas and today represents the faith of many Irish immigrants that settled in Loiza by the end of the 18th century. Today it is a museum.
- 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 "Saint George and the Dragon"
- Stephen R. Lawhead wrote the fictional Patrick: Son of Ireland loosely based on the saint's life, including imagined accounts of training as a druid and service in the Roman army before his conversion.
- The 1999 historical novel Let Me Die in Ireland by Anabaptist author and attorney David Bercot is based on the documented facts of Patrick's life rather than the legend, and suggests implications of his example for Christians today.
- is a 2000 television historical drama film about the saint's life. Patrick is portrayed by Patrick Bergin.