50 St Patrick’s Day Facts
- The person who was to become St. Patrick, was probably born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. His given name was Maewyn. Although his father possibly was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives, and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. Far from being a saint, until he was 16 Patrick considered himself a pagan.
- Patrick was about sixteen years old when he was abducted and enslaved by Irish marauders, under their leader, Niall of the Nine Hostages.
- There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala) During his captivity, he became closer to God.
- According to his writing, a voice – which he believed to be God’s – spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. After travelling for more than 200 miles by foot, he was eventually given passage on a boat travelling across the Irish Sea. His first destination was Britain. Patrick also reported that he experienced a second revelation – an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary.
- He eventually settled in France and studied in a monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to convert the pagans to Christianity.
- Patrick spent twenty years of his life as a monk in Marmoutier Abbey. There he again received a celestial visitation, this time calling him to return to the land where he had been enslaved.
- Patrick was called to Rome in 432 whereupon Pope Celestine bequeathed the honour of Bishop upon him before he left on his holy mission.
- An Irish toast:
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.
- Patrick and 24 of his followers arrived in Ireland in the winter of 432.
- Patrick and his followers were invited to Tara by the King of Laoghaire. While he was there he plucked a shamrock from the ground and tried to explain the to the druids and the King that the shamrock had three leaves just like God had three personas – The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. This was called the Trinity. Before the Christian era it was a sacred plant of the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad.
- King Laoghaire was very impressed and chose to accept Christianity. He also gave Patrick the freedom to spread Christianity throughout Ireland.
- Patrick was quite successful at winning converts, and this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time.
- While not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. The story holds that he converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the “Holy Wells” that still bear this name.
- He travelled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.
- Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honouring their gods with fire. He also is said to have superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.
- His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. Patrick is thought to have died sometime between 463AB and 493AD, on March 17th.
- There are several accounts of St. Patrick’s death. One says that St. Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick. 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 says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Relics from Patrick the Older, believed by many to be Saint Patrick are housed at this church. A translation feast is held on August 24th.
- Today, many Catholic places of worship all around the world are named after St. Patrick, including cathedrals in New York City , Dublin, and Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia.
- An Irish toast :
May your blessings outnumber, the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.
- Within the Christian calendar Patrick has been remembered as early as the ninth century AD with the Feast of St Patrick’s “falling asleep” – in other words his passing on 17 March. The Book of Armagh included a note directing all monasteries and churches in Ireland to honour the memory of the saint by the celebration, during three days and three nights in mid-spring.
- Many legends and myths surround Patrick. Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead.
- Patrick also is said to have given a sermon that drove all the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland, and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. One story tells of his standing upon a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland. Another legend says that one old serpent resisted, but the saint overcame it by cunning. He is said to have made a box and invited the reptile to enter. The snake insisted the box was too small and the discussion became very heated. Finally the snake entered the box to prove he was right, whereupon St Patrick slammed the lid and cast the box into the sea.
- An Irish toast:
St. Patrick was a gentleman, who thru strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland, Here’s a toasting his health
But not too many lest you lose yourself and then
You forget the good St. Patrick and see those snakes again.
- The St. Patrick’s Day custom came to America in 1737.
- There is a dispute as to his place of burial; the site with the strongest claim seems to be Down Cathedral, where a large slab of rock on which the word Patric is inscribed.
- Veneration of Patrick was apparent in the eight century AD. At this time Patrick’s status of national apostle was made independently of Rome; he was claimed locally as a saint before the practice of canonisation was introduced by the Vatican.
- Fables about Patrick ridding Ireland of snakes or his use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity, still endure as part of modern St Patrick’s Day folklore and custom.
- What’s good luck on Saint Patrick’s Day?: Finding a four-leaf clover (that’s double the good luck it usually is). Wearing green. (School children started this tradition of their own — they used to pinch classmates who don’t wear green on this holiday). Kissing the blarney stone.
- Saint Patrick’s Day has come to be associated with everything Irish: anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck. Most importantly, to those who celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.
- In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government changed this law, and last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland ‘s St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin.
- An Irish blessing:
May you always have…
Walls for the winds, A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire, Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire.
- According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a shamrock is “any of several similar-appearing trifoliate plants (plants whose leaves are divided into three leaflets). Common shamrocks include the wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) or any of various plants of the pea family (Fabaceae), including white clover (Trifolium repens) and suckling clover (Trifolium dubium).” Wood sorrel is shipped in large quantities from Ireland to other countries for St. Patrick’s Day.
- An Irish toast:
He preached with such wonderful force
the innocent natives his teaching,
with wine washed down each discourse,
Says he: “I detest all dry preaching!”
- Writings attributed to St. Patrick are his Epistle to Cortices accepted as authentic, and a fine hymn in Irish, the Breastplate of St. Patrick. The Epistle, written in Latin, beseeches Coroticus, a British chief, to free some Irish Christians whom he had taken captive.
- Croagh Patrick, colloquially called ‘The Reek’, is God’s conical shape beacon above the town of Westport. The summit is the holy ground on which St. Patrick supposedly rested, fasted and reflected during all 44 days of lent in 441 A.D. Here, too, according to legend, is where Ireland’s patron saint banished the snakes from the island. It has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.
- The mountain is renowned for its annual Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Patrick, and penitential exercises have been faithfully handed down by many generations. On the last Sunday of July each year, its slopes are full of pilgrims, many barefooted, climbing to the summit to attend Mass in the ancient stone church.
- Near the base of the mountain is Tobair Padraig, or Patrick’s Well, named for the natural spring nearby where Patrick baptized his first Irish converts. The present structure was built in the 15th century, and today is completely restored. A stone statue of St. Patrick – holding a green clover to the heavens in his right hand – stands at the beginning of the path.
- Believe it or not, the colour of St. Patrick was not actually green, but blue! In the 19th century, however, green came to be used as a symbol for Ireland.
- Lough Derg (Red Lake) Co. Donegal.
This island contains a shrine to Saint Patrick. Legend says he killed the lake monster there and its blood dyed the water red. Many people go there on three day pilgrimages to pray from the first of June to the 15th of August. Lough Derg is said to be a cure for the seven deadly sins.
- Saint Patrick’s Isle is located at the Isle of Man, just off the coast of Ireland. This island is where Saint Patrick is said to have brought Christianity to the people there.
- Downpatrick Shrine Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.
The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity (originally named Church of Dendalethglass) is where Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid, and Saint Columba are believed to be buried. A bell, tooth, and hand from Saint Patrick were discovered in the 12th century. Saint Patrick’s hand was enshrined in silver and placed in the high altar of the Abbey Church. Water was poured through it to heal sores. The bell and tooth are now in the National Museum of Dublin.
- Sabhail (Barn) (pron. SAUL) County Down, Northern Ireland.
Legend says Saint Patrick died here and received his last communion from Bishop Tassach.
- The first church founded by Saint Patrick is located at Mag-inis. The ground is considered holy.
- Ard Macha or Armagh (Macha’s Height) Northern Ireland.
Saint Patrick built the Cathedral Church and founded the See of Armagh in 444 AD. The Primate of the Church of Ireland is housed there today.
- An Irish toast:
St. Patrick was an Irish man he came from decent people
On a rock he built a church & on this church a steeple
Now it’s the red rose for England, the thistle for Scot,
the shamrock for Ireland – the pride of the lot!
This toast often given but like my deceased grandmother
who used to deliver it, never forgot!
- Dunshaughlin Co. Meath.
Domnach Sechnaill church was built and the first hymn composed in Ireland was written by St. Sechnall. It honors Saint Patrick, is 23 stanzas long, and is known as Hymn in Patrick’s Praise.
- Dublin (Black Pool):
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (built on Saint Patrick’s Day 1192 over four older churches) has a stone slab called Saint Patrick’s Well Stone. The stone covered the remains of Saint Patrick’s Well from the ninth century AD, where Saint Patrick baptized converts and was unearthed in 1901.
- An Irish toast:
The Scots have their whisky,
the Welsh have their tongue,
but the Irish have Paddy,
who’s second to none!
- St Patrick is credited with establishing the Leap Year tradition of women proposing to men. The story states this was because St Bridget complained that women were tired of waiting for marriage proposals. The story also says that Bridget proposed to him, but he refused!