St Patrick of Ireland is our beloved chief Irish Patron Saint.
Affectionately, we call him Saint Paddy and St Pat.
Not much is known about St Patrick's biography, but we know that he was a successful
missionary. He did convert many Irish to Christianity, even if he cannot
be credited with being the first to bring the faith here.
So, how did
St Patrick succeed at converting so many Irish people to Christianity?
through his experience of living in Ireland as a slave for some six years, had
insight into the existing culture. This knowledge helped him greatly when he
came to live here as a missionary.
became a skilful politician. He knew how to smooth things with gifts or bribes
in order to negotiate the dangers he faced as a foreign missionary living among
a plethora of pagan Irish local kings. He understood the importance of building alliances with local leaders.
of Ireland converted not only poor and vulnerable people, but also some wealthy ones,
notably women, such as the daughters of chieftains who would donate their
wealth to the church.
These women would often go on to lead their own congregations of
nuns. This built a solid base and ensured the survival of the religious
Some of the
Irish kings eventually realised that adopting the Christian faith brought them
political advantages, such as an opening up to the outside world, and a backup
for their own power in the powers of the church. They could work with the
church, write laws for example, to further their own advancement.
Christianity adopted many pagan fest days and traditions which made conversion
as easy as possible. People’s lives didn’t have to change very much if they
converted. That surely was a help.
Celtic High Cross and early Christian church at Clonmacnoise, Ireland.
Saint Pat, did he
really bring Christianity to Ireland?
proven facts about this saint.
Take our 10
question St Patrick's quiz!
Paddy's Day in Ireland
Saint Patrick's Day Parade
some features of the new faith brought by St Patrick of Ireland that would have resonated with Irish pagans. For
example, the concept of the holy trinity would have made sense to them, as they
were used to worshiping gods in groups of threes. Christianity’s central image of a crucified
Christ would have felt quite natural for Irish pagans, too, as they were still
practising human sacrifice.
And, finally, another
huge event which occurred probably sometime after Patricks death helped to
speed up the process of conversion to Christianity. Ice samples taken in
Greenland, as well as evidence from tree rings have shown that an extreme event,
probably an impact by a meteor or a huge volcanic eruption, took place early in
the 6th century and affected the weather not only in Ireland but
Early Christian Cross at Clonmacnoise.
It caused a drop in temperature and much less sunlight than normal.
These changes would have resulted in crop failures for many years in a row
causing famine and famine related diseases. Many would have died and there
would have been immense suffering. It was after this period that the rate of
conversion to Christianity started to pick up speed. Here was a new God, one
that offered an explanation for what was happening. People had abandoned God,
so God became angry.
implication was that, if you followed the dogma and did things right, you had
control over the threatening natural world.
So, in conclusion, we
would argue that Saint Patrick of Ireland became an important historical
figure because he was a skilful and determined evangelist for one
thing, but also because he was in the right place at the right time in
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Copyright 2014 by Colm Sweeney and Susanna Lambeck www.enjoy-irish-culture.com