Patrick of Ireland

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Statue of St. Patrick on the hill of Tara

Saint Patrick of Ireland ( Latin Magonus Sucatus Patricius , Irish Pádraig Mac Calprainn, Naomh Pádraig ; * late 4th / early 5th century in Bannaventa Berniae in Wales , perhaps to be identified with Banwen or Banwell in Somerset , or Old Kilpatrick , West Dunbartonshire , Scotland ; † March 17, 461 or 493 in County Down , Ireland ) was a Christian missionary and is considered a national saint in Ireland .


Modern research on Patrick often follows some sort of “two Patrick” theory advocated by TF O'Rahilly . As a result, much of the information was attributed to Patrick, but it originally concerned Palladius , who came to Ireland as a deacon from Gaul in the 5th century . However, Palladius was not the first clergyman to come to Ireland. Auxilius, Secundinus and Iserninus are often mentioned with the first churches in Munster and Leinster . It is also believed that Palladius was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine I. The corresponding note can be found in the Chronicle of Prosper Tiro of Aquitaine :

"Palladius was ordained by Celestine I and was the first bishop to be sent to the Irish Christians."

Prosper connects this ordination with the visit of Germanus of Auxerre to suppress the Pelagian heresy in Britain . In order to prevent an establishment among the Catholic Christians, Palladius is said to have been sent there as well. Against this background, it is said that the mission of Palladius and his companions was to care for the Christians who already existed in Ireland and not to force the spread of Christianity. However, since Palladius was later revered as a propagator of the “right doctrine”, elements from his vita could have flowed into the Patrick legend .

Own information and legends

Slemish in County Antrim , where Patrick is believed to have worked as a shepherd when he was a slave.

It is difficult to obtain historically secured facts from the legends of the saints that later revolved around Patrick. For example, Irish-Welsh legends exist that see Patrick as a pagan Welsh man named Patrick Maewyn.

The most reliable information can therefore be found in his own writings (especially the confessio ). Accordingly, his real name was Patricius - a common Roman name in late antiquity - and was the son of Caponius, a Roman officer who was stationed in the province of Britannia and also worked as a deacon in the local parish. Patricius had therefore already been brought up in the Catholic faith and was proud of his religion and Roman education. At the age of 16, he was taken from his parents' estate by slavers to a place in Ireland, which he did not name, where he had to tend sheep. There he found consolation in Christianity . If one follows his explanations in the Confessio, he learned to love the rough country and its inhabitants despite his difficult life in bondage. After about six years, an angel named Victoricus is said to have announced to him that he should flee. He then fled across the sea with traders and wandered with them for weeks through a devastated, empty country. Patrick does not name this place, like almost all others, in the Confessio, but it can be assumed that he became a monk and priest and spent many years in a monastery, possibly in Gaul (since he mentions "pagan Franks") . One night, he writes, he heard voices calling him back to Ireland, which he thought he recognized as the voices of the Irish people asking him to come back.

Pope Celestine I is said to have sent Patrick to Ireland as bishop in 432 . Patrick founded monasteries, schools and churches throughout the country, including the mother church , the Cathedral of Armagh , and exercised his missionary work until his death (allegedly on March 17, 461) made. When he died (possibly in County Down) he was believed to have converted thousands of Irish to the Christian faith. Patrick had not only brought his religion with him, but also his education. From now on, stories were written down and no longer just passed down orally. He probably wrote his own life story himself, as well as a letter "to the soldiers of Coroticus", which clearly denounced a massacre of Irish Christians by warriors of a British warlord. The transcription of a conversation with a pagan Celt, in which he was asked about his values, replied: Truth in the heart, strength in the arm, fulfillment in speech , was also attributed to Patrick himself.

The legends were written at least 100 years later. In them it is said that Patrick freed the island of all snakes during a sermon and not only with the power of his words, but with the active commitment of his crosier . In truth there have never been poisonous snakes in post-glacial Ireland: "The expulsion of the snakes" is meant figuratively and is symbolic of the expulsion of pagan beliefs and evil demons; This motif can be found in Christian legends in connection with the founding of many monasteries (e.g. on the Reichenau ).

While most historians assume that the sources stated that the historical Patrick was the son of Christian Roman landowners in Britain is correct, as has been said, for almost all other aspects (including the exact dates of his life) it is unclear or controversial whether they were one Contain the core of the facts and what this possibly consists of.


Patrick is said to have explained the Trinity using the shamrock ( trifolium ), which as a result became the Irish national symbol.

Patrick statue in Kerala , India, where the saint is venerated as a patron against snakes

Many sights are associated with him (mostly in a haphazard manner): you can see the church where he first preached, his grave in Downpatrick , County Down, Northern Ireland, and his statue on Ireland's holy mountain - Croagh Patrick - where he was forty Is said to have spent days without food and water like Jesus in the desert. Thousands of Catholics make a pilgrimage to this mountain every year. Streets and squares were named after him.

The anniversary of his death became Ireland's national holiday and is celebrated by Irish people around the world as their St. Patrick's Day - also in the Irish diaspora .

The names Patrick (boys) and Patricia (girls) are still popular names for children in Ireland and also for people of Irish descent in America, Australia and other countries. Patrick is often shortened to Paddy or Pat , and Paddy is often used as a nickname for the Irish (especially in England).

In Haitian Voodoo , Saint Patrick is syncretistically equated with the figure of the Loa Damballah , one of the most famous loas, who is revered as the "snake god" and viewed as a father figure.


Patrick is among other things namesake for

Remembrance day

St. Patrick's Day in Buenos Aires ( Argentina )

The March 17 is the feast of St. Patrick:

See also


Web links

Commons : Saint Patrick  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Patricius  - Sources and full texts (Latin)
  • St Patrick's Confessio HyperStack : Saint Patrick's texts in Latin and translation, images of medieval manuscripts, printed editions, scientific articles, audio books, etc., collected and digitally processed.

Individual evidence

  1. De Paor, S. 79th
  2. Gerhard Herm : The Celts - The people who came out of the dark , Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1975, p. 232, ISBN 978-3-430-14453-7
  3. ^ Webster University : Descriptions of Various Loa of Voodoo , 1990
  4. Patrick of Ireland in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
predecessor Office successor
- Bishop of Armagh
around 432–461