The History of St Patrick is the story of the man who wasn´t even Irish and wasn´t treated particularly well by the Irish either... at least not in his early years in Ireland. In fact, he seems to have had a pretty horrible time as a shepherd slave. Read on to learn more about the man who didn´t quite bring Christianity to Ireland, but is the man who spread it the length and breadth of the country.
Patrick was born in Britain with the full name Magonus Succatus Patricius and was the son of a relatively prosperous
family. However, his life took a difficult turn when he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates at the age of just
16. It is believed he was taken to the west of Ireland, most likely County Mayo, where he was put herding sheep in what were miserable and very lonely conditions.
After 6 years of tough treatment, he managed to make his escape to France or Gaul as it was then known. He became a priest but returned to Ireland after a number of years and his mission began. It was a mission that would last some 30 years in the fifth century.
While Patrick gets the credit for converting the Irish Celts to Christians, he wasn´t the first priest in Ireland. Believe it or not, when he arrived there was probably already a substantial number of Christians in Ireland.
There is also not much evidence in St Patrick´s background to suggest that Patrick was a serious academic theologian. However, what makes St Patrick´s history unusual, is that he was one of the first to really try to convert non-Christians. While other clerics concentrated on working with the already established Christian community, Patrick had an evangelical zeal. As a bishop he made great efforts preaching the Christian word to the non-Christians Celts.
It seems that St Patrick was a man of the world too and adapted to the social situation in Ireland, as it was then, by keeping in with the local rulers and chieftains, to ensure safe passage and reduce the risk of trouble. Other clergy may not have approved but it helped him to be very successful in his mission.
In the 6th to 8th centuries, the history of St Patrick became the stuff of legends and he became recognised as the founder of the Irish Church.
It is difficult to know where that real history of Saint Patrick ends and the legend begins. He is linked in stories to meetings with other great saints though he may never have met or even been alive at the same time as them. But there are also stories of him driving the snakes out of Ireland, fighting monsters, raising the dead and in conversation with the great warrior heroes of Ireland's folklore (the Fianna).
Ireland is full of evidence of his presence with holy wells, lakes and hills all connected with Saint Patrick. He is of course also associated with the Shamrock, the Irish clover.
On the last Sunday of every July, St Patrick´s history and mission in Ireland is celebrated by a climb of one of Ireland´s most beautiful mountains, Croagh Patrick in County Mayo in the West of Ireland. Up to 25,000 climb “the Reek”, many barefoot.
Some great St Patrick´s Day poems
Some St Patrick´s Day humour with these jokes.
Learn a little about the little plant so linked to the history of Saint Patrick, the Shamrock
I have used the Encyclopedia of Irish Spirituality by Phyllis G. Jestice as a reference for this page.