St. Patrick: Legends, Myths and Truth

March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013        Patrick Tally

He wasn’t even Irish and yet St. Patrick is the most famous figure from that island nation. Born in Britain, he was captured by Irish raiders at 16 and held as a slave. He escaped several years later, became a priest, returned to Ireland and, according to CU-Boulder historian Patrick Tally, made it his life’s work to convert the Irish to Christianity.

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St. Patrick: Legends, Myths and Truth

March 15, 2013        Patrick Tally

He wasn’t even Irish and yet St. Patrick is the most famous figure from that island nation. Born in Britain, he was captured by Irish raiders at 16 and held as a slave. He escaped several years later, became a priest, returned to Ireland and, according to CU-Boulder historian Patrick Tally, made it his life’s work to convert the Irish to Christianity.

CUT 1  “He made it his life’s work to go back and convert the Irish. There were already some Christians in Ireland but very few. At the time, most Irish people were polytheistic and did not believe in Christianity.” (:12)

And while St. Patrick did succeed in converting many Irish to Christianity, he wasn’t the only missionary in Ireland at that time, but, for some reason, he is the one who is remembered.

CUT 2 “He wasn’t, as far as we know, the most successful of all the missionaries. He was pretty successful. He establishes lots of churches. He converts lots of people, but there are other people that did just as good of a job but they aren’t remembered in quite the same way. (:15) It was after his death the myth of him was built up. And so the legend sort of grew up and he became, in the early medieval period, the patron saint of Ireland through retelling of legends about him.” (:28)

Legends such as St. Patrick using the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy trinity might be true, says Tally, but the legend that he banished all the snakes from Ireland with only a wooden staff at his side, could not be true since there have never been snakes in Ireland.

CUT 3 “Many legends about what he did -- driving the snakes out of Ireland -- there never weren’t any snakes in Ireland. But it means driving out the pagan religion. It’s a metaphor for driving the snakes out of Ireland. (:14) And teaching the trinity of one god, three person’s, he used the Irish shamrock which is, of course, one plant with three leaves.” (:24)

According to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals, St. Patrick died in A.D. 460 on March 17, a date accepted by some modern historians but difficult to prove since there is no documented proof. He is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland at alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba, although this has never been proven, either.

-CU-

 

 

 

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