Holy Hierarch Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland and Wonderworker

Commemorated: March 17/30

An icon of St. Patrick of Ireland An icon of St. Patrick of Ireland It is notable that little historical evidence of the life of the great enlightener of Ireland survives, though his name is surrounded by numerous traditions and legends. The only pieces of historical evidence dating back to St. Patrick’s life are his own writings, namely “The Confession” (a sort of autobiography) and “A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus” (a British tyrant who came to Ireland, kidnapped and killed many of the converts). Apart from these excellent sources, there are the still extant Life of St. Patrick composed in the seventh century by St. Muirchu (he also wrote his version of St. Brigid’s Life), some other later Lives, and countless traditions of various degrees of authenticity. The historian Nennius who lived around 800 A.D. also gives an account of St. Patrick’s life in his famous work, Historia Britonum (The History of the Britons).

According to these sources, St. Patrick (c. 389–c. 461 or possibly c. 493), the future apostle and wonderworker of all Ireland, was a Romano-Briton by origin. He was born near the coast of the Irish Sea in what is now northwestern Britain in the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae, as mentioned in his Confession (this has not been identified yet, but it may have been situated in what is now Cumbria). It is known that his father, Calpornius, was a deacon, and his grandfather, Potitus, a priest. His father came from Rome and was involved in the city administration there. The saint’s name was Patricius, (Patrick and Padraig are English and Irish forms), and means “noble” in Latin.

The future saint obtained a good education, but Christian teaching did not interest him much. When the boy was sixteen, Irish pirates pillaged his father’s villa during a raid (which was commonplace at that time). Thus the young Patrick was sold into slavery and sent to Ireland, to what is now County Antrim in the north. He spent six years in slavery, herding the sheep of his master Milchu (a local chieftain) on Slemish Mountain, not far from Ballymena. As was testified by Patrick himself, in Ireland the young saint lived among Christians, which indicates that the Christian faith had been brought to this land before his mission. In captivity the saint was almost completely deprived of clothes, food and freedom, toiling day and night. But communication with his brothers in Christ, coupled with the sorrows that befell him, strengthened the faith of the future saint.

Patrick prayed much, imploring God to deliver him from his suffering. And one day when he was as usual tending the sheep, a figure appeared in front of him. The stranger said: “Don’t be afraid, Patrick. Your prayers have been answered by God. I am an angel, Victricius, and I have come to help you run away from the pagans… Go down the cliff and you will see a boat.” Saying this, the angel vanished. Patrick looked down the cliff, deep in thought, but he could not make his mind to walk down. All of a sudden he saw a narrow path leading to the shore and an empty vessel below. Patrick quickly got down, boarded the boat, and started sailing. Eventually he found himself in an uninhabited area—it may have been Brittany. There the saint almost died of hunger. It was not until several years later that St. Patrick, having surmounted all obstacles and adversities, returned to his native Britain.

St. Patrick's statue near Station Island, Ireland St. Patrick's statue near Station Island, Ireland Back at home, St. Patrick for some time studied to become a priest. But soon the angel appeared to him again and said that it was the will of God that he (St. Patrick) should go back to the land where he had languished in slavery for many years and become its enlightener and spiritual leader. Much inspired by the vision, Patrick firmly decided to devote the rest of his life to the service of God and resolved first and foremost to go to Gaul to obtain further education and prepare himself for the mission. There he studied, most probably in Auxerre under the illustrious Hierarch Germanus, and also may have studied in Tours, which had been founded by the great St Martin. It was there that his gift of working miracles was first revealed. According to tradition, Patrick also visited the isle of Lerins in the south of Gaul, founded under the influence of the great Egyptian Desert Fathers, which was a celebrated center of Orthodoxy in Western Europe at that time, along with other monasteries. After Gaul Patrick may perhaps have gone to study in Rome, and in 432, before his departure for Ireland, he was consecrated bishop in Auxerre by St. Germanus (another tradition holds that Patrick had been consecrated earlier by St. Amator of Auxerre).

In 432, St. Patrick took twelve companions and set forth on his voyage to “the Emerald Isle”—this is what Ireland is called on account of its greenness. In Ireland Patrick landed at what is now Saul near Downpatrick. He suggested that his companions have a rest in the forest far from people’s sight, while he hastened to find out where they were. At the same time two young daughters of the local chieftain Laoghaire, Eithne and Fidelma (other forms: Ethenia and Fidelmia) by name, went to the river to bathe. The holy man who remembered Irish spoke to them. First the girls were scared, but seeing the saint’s kind, bright face they sat down and listened to him.

Patrick related the Good Tidings of Christ to them, and the elder princess said that they liked this faith better than their pagan faith and asked him to baptize them. St. Patrick performed the Baptism in the same river, called his companions back from the forest, and soon arrived at the palace of their father. Some time later the king converted to Christ and was baptized together with his courtiers, and his two daughters were venerated as saints after their death (feast: January 11). However, this conversion must have taken place some time after St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland because Laoghaire was king of Connacht, far from Saul in the north.

It should be pointed out that Ireland had not been invaded by anybody, so it did not depend on Rome or anybody else. Most of Ireland practiced paganism, even human sacrifices were offered to heathen gods and the cult of nature was very strong. At that time Ireland was divided into “castes”: kings (chieftains), druids (priests), bards, doctors, brehons (keepers of the law), and slaves. It means that missionaries had to evangelize each “caste” separately. There were three main classes in Irish society: kings, noblemen, and landowners were at the top; druids, artisans, doctors, musicians and people of different skills were in the middle; and the common people and peasants who were considered free were at the bottom. Ireland consisted of numerous small kingdoms (principalities) which were at almost permanent war with each other, but eventually five major kingdoms were formed, namely Munster, Connaught (Connacht), Meath, Leinster, and Ulster.

St. Patrick's Church in Saul, Down St. Patrick's Church in Saul, Down     

The first church on Irish soil was built by Patrick at Saul in 433. Tradition has it that when the saint and his companions landed at the mouth of the River Slaney, they met a local chieftain named Dichu. The latter was so impressed by Patrick that he came to believe in Christ and gave him his barn to be used as a church. It became the first base of Patrick’s missionary activities and it was from there that the holy bishop would travel to various places preaching Christ. On Holy Saturday of the same year, March 26, St. Patrick lit the first Paschal fire on the summit of Slane Hill near the Tara Valley. It was a sublime Paschal Vigil in which many new Christians participated, filled with Paschal joy and the atmosphere of triumph of the faith of Christ over paganism. At the same time, the pagan priests were warned by their “gods” (that is, demons) that their worst enemy had come to the Irish land and he would exterminate the old religion and establish the worship of “the Crucified One” all over the island.

The rest of St. Patrick’s life was devoted to travelling in Ireland, especially in his base in the north, preaching, teaching, baptizing, building churches, founding monasteries, converting everyone—from tribal chieftains to ordinary people—casting out demons, healing, performing all sorts of miracles, and training his clergy and future saints. Pagan princes and druids met St. Patrick’s mission with extreme hostility. The saint had to endure persecutions and many sorrows inflicted on him by pagans. God and His holy angels always saved him and his disciples from imminent death. Thus, once some druids set an ambush for St. Patrick and his companions, but, through St. Patrick’s prayers, the enemies did not notice them, seeing only a herd of deer passing by instead. Another time a band of Britons landed on the shores of Ireland to conquer the country. St. Patrick by the power of his eloquence and humility persuaded the soldiers to sail back home in peace.

Croagh Patrick, Mayo Croagh Patrick, Mayo     

Thanks to St. Patrick’s example of devout life, grace-filled sermons and countless miracles the beginning of the conversion of Ireland to Christianity did not take long and was absolutely bloodless. It is known that after seven years of unceasing missionary journeys and labors on Irish soil Patrick spent all of Lent in prayer on a mountain in what is now County Mayo—today this mountain is known as Croagh Patrick; it is 764 meters or 2,507 feet high. In his sermons St. Patrick denounced heathenism, slavery, idol-worship (including sun-worship). The holy missionary baptized thousands of Irish people into Orthodoxy, preached the Gospel and brought learning to this country. The Christianization of Ireland, begun by St. Patrick and his numerous immediate followers, concerned all strata of society.

St. Patrick depicted on stained glass window of Anglican Armagh Cathedral's south aisle (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh) St. Patrick depicted on stained glass window of Anglican Armagh Cathedral's south aisle (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh) St. Patrick is regarded as the founder of the Irish Church. The City of Armagh became the center of Church life and by the eighth century it had grown into the spiritual capital of Ireland. According to later traditions, there he founded a monastery and erected an archbishop’s see. The rules of Irish monasteries had much in common with those of the monasteries of the Egyptian Fathers, and were based on prayer and ascetic life. But there were some peculiarities too. Since Ireland consisted of a large number of tiny kingdoms, and Irish society was organized around traditional kinship groups or clans, St. Patrick (and his followers) would build a monastery for each clan; these monasteries were inhabited by communities consisting of many families and clergy (members of one or another clan), and the abbot (as a rule, the leader of a clan) enjoyed even greater authority than a bishop. This system, where clans shared a common surname, traditions and heritage, existed in Ireland till the seventeenth century.

Little by little, monastic life, the tradition of elders and learning became firmly established in Ireland. Thanks to St. Patrick and his spiritual successors Ireland was nicknamed “the island of saints and scholars”. As many as 350 bishops may have been serving in Ireland by the year 460, according to some sources. By his prayers it is said that St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland. Some historians interpret this literally because there are still no snakes in Ireland, while some suppose that this miracle should be understood spiritually—that is, he expelled demons.

This is how Nennius concluded his account of St. Patrick in his work mentioned above: “Saint Patrick taught the Gospel in foreign nations for the space of forty years. Endued with apostolic powers, he gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out devils, raised nine people from the dead, redeemed many captives of both sexes at his own charge and set them free in the name of the Holy Trinity. He taught the servants of God, and he wrote three hundred and sixty-five canonical and other books relating to the Catholic [in the sense—Orthodox] faith. He founded as many churches, and consecrated the same number of bishops, strengthening them with the Holy Spirit. He ordained three thousand priests and converted and baptized twelve thousand people in the province of Connaught. And, in one day he baptized seven kings who were the seven sons of Amalgaid [King of Connaught]. He fasted for forty days and nights on the summit of the mountain Eli, that is Cruachan-Aichle [now Croagh Patrick].

He offered three petitions to God for the Irish who had embraced the faith. The Irish say that the first was that he would receive every repentant sinner, even at the latest extremity of life; the second, that they should never be exterminated by barbarians; and the third, that as Ireland [that no Irishman may be alive on the day of Judgment, because they will be destroyed seven years before in honor of St. Patrick] will be flooded over with water seven years before the Lord comes to judge the living and the dead, that the crimes of the people might be washed away through his intercession, and their souls purified at the last day. He gave the people his blessing from the upper part of the mountain, and went up higher that he might pray for them; and that if it pleased God, he might see the effects of his labors. Then there appeared to him an innumerable flock of birds of many colors, signifying the number of holy people of both sexes of the Irish nation, who should come to him, their apostle, on the Day of Judgment, to be presented before the tribunal of Christ. After a life spent in the active exertion of good to mankind, St. Patrick, in healthy old age, passed from this world to the Lord, and changing this life for a better one, with the saints and elect of God he rejoices for evermore.1

About the year 433 (according to another tradition, 460), St. Patrick composed his beautiful hymn, the Deer’s Cry, the text of which is as follows:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun, Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning, Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea, Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me, Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Downpatrick, Down The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Downpatrick, Down     

According to tradition, the apostle of Ireland who was venerated as a saint already in his lifetime reposed in the Lord on March 17/30, in Saul (the place where his mission had started) and was buried in nearby Downpatrick. From time immemorial the holy hierarch has been venerated as the enlightener and main patron of Ireland and Orthodox Christians call him equal-to-the-apostles. He is the most venerated saint in Ireland. It is largely through his labors that Ireland became a peaceful Orthodox country after his repose and his mission spread to the Isle of Man (the saint himself may have visited the Isle of Man and is venerated is its co-enlightener together with Sts. Germanus and Maughold). Apart from St. Patrick, the apostle of this land, thousands of other saints shone forth in this island. On account of the great multitudes of holy monks and ascetics whom Ireland produced this country can be compared to the Egyptian Thebaid. Many Irishmen were famous for their wisdom, simplicity of life, ascetic practices, learning, and musical skills, and they brought all of this to Britain and mainland Europe between the sixth and ninth centuries.

Reputed burial site of St. Patrick at Downpatrick Cathedral, Down Reputed burial site of St. Patrick at Downpatrick Cathedral, Down     

Many holy sites in Ireland are associated with St. Patrick. Among such places are Armagh, Croagh Patrick, Downpatrick, and Saul. According to tradition in 1185 the relics of Sts. Patrick, Brigid and Columba were discovered in what is now Downpatrick Cathedral in County Down, now situated in the small town of Downpatrick not far from Belfast. The supposed grave of St. Patrick survives near this cathedral to this day and attracts crowds of pilgrims. There is also St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church and Heritage Center in this town.

St. Patrick's Chapel on the top of Croagh Patrick St. Patrick's Chapel on the top of Croagh Patrick     

The mountain of Croagh Patrick remains a popular pilgrimage destination in our days. It is known that St. Patrick prayed on its peak for forty days and nights and reputedly built a church there. On the last Sunday of July, every year up to 15,000 pilgrims from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere climb this mountain. Just over 100 years ago a chapel in honor of St. Patrick was erected on its summit and it holds regular services during summer. Among the participants in the pilgrimage are also some Orthodox Christians.

A page from the Book of Armagh A page from the Book of Armagh     

Undisputedly, the principal center of veneration of St. Patrick is the City of Armagh, which is the county town of County Armagh. In the ninth century the marauding Vikings twice attacked the monastery founded by Patrick in Armagh. It was in that same century that the illuminated manuscript called the Book of Armagh was created there. It consisted of 220 folios and included the texts of the New Testament and those related to St. Patrick in Old Irish and Latin. Most of this beautiful and priceless manuscript survives and is kept in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. In 1189, the City of Armagh was completely devastated by Norman knights, but it nevertheless continued to exist as an educational and religious center for centuries, though now in the Roman Catholic (after the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland) and not the Orthodox tradition.

St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral in Armagh St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral in Armagh     

The ceiling boss of St. Patrick inside Anglican Cathedral in Armagh (kindly provided by John Stafford) The ceiling boss of St. Patrick inside Anglican Cathedral in Armagh (kindly provided by John Stafford)     

The 'Millennium Window' at Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh) The 'Millennium Window' at Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh)     

Two cathedrals in Armagh are dedicated to St. Patrick. The first of them belongs to the Anglican Church of Ireland. It stands on the site where around 435 St. Patrick built his first stone cathedral and monastery. Throughout its history the cathedral was destroyed and rebuilt seventeen times, the most recent renovation works took place in the 1840s. Among the celebrities buried at this cathedral let us mention Brian Boru who was the High King of Ireland between 1002 and 1014. St. Patrick and other Irish saints are represented in this cathedral in many ways. Among the monuments dedicated to St. Patrick let us mention a roof boss above the center of the choir; the “Millennium Window” with Sts. Brendan, Patrick, Brigid and Columba, surrounding Ferdomnach, the scribe of the Book of Armagh; the westernmost window of the south aisle which has two images of St. Patrick; and an image at the bottom-center of the east window in the Lady Chapel. The other cathedral, which belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, was built in the second half of the nineteenth century. It is famous for its two spires, sixty-four meters (c. 210 feet) tall each, which make it the highest building in County Armagh.

St. Patrick's RC Cathedral in Armagh St. Patrick's RC Cathedral in Armagh     

Nave of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin Nave of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin     

Depiction of St. Patrick on east window in the Lady Chapel of Anglican Armagh Cathedral (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh) Depiction of St. Patrick on east window in the Lady Chapel of Anglican Armagh Cathedral (kindly provided by the Dean of Armagh)

One of the two main cathedrals in the city of Dublin, the capital of the Irish Republic, is dedicated to St. Patrick. It is the largest church in Ireland and its tower is forty-three meters (c. 140 feet) high.

St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral in Dublin St. Patrick's Anglican Cathedral in Dublin     

The first church in honor of St. Patrick was founded on this site as early as 1191. Soon the church’s status was raised to collegiate and from 1212 it was used as a Catholic cathedral (after the Irish Reformation it became an Anglican cathedral). Significantly, from 1713 till 1745 the dean of this cathedral was Jonathan Swift, a famous Irish satirist, poet and clergyman, best known for his book Gulliver's Travels. There are numerous images of St. Patrick around the cathedral both in stained glass and statues. Two examples are an ancient statue of St. Patrick in the south transept and a modern depiction of the saint by the Irish artist Melanie Le Brocquy (1919-2018).

St. Patrick's ancient statue in the south transept of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin (kindly provided by Dublin Cathedral's Education Officer) St. Patrick's ancient statue in the south transept of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin (kindly provided by Dublin Cathedral's Education Officer)     

St. Patrick's modern depiction by Melanie LeBrocquy in the nave of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin (kindly provided by Dublin Cathedral's Education Officer) St. Patrick's modern depiction by Melanie LeBrocquy in the nave of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin (kindly provided by Dublin Cathedral's Education Officer)     

According to tradition, St. Patrick himself baptized pagans on this site in about 450. Interestingly, the first reference to a church on this spot is “St. Patrick’s on the island”. There is a very ancient St. Patrick’s holy well directly opposite the cathedral in what is now St. Patrick's Park. However, nowadays the well is hidden—it is several feet underground. There is only a small plaque marking the spot in the park next door to the cathedral. The well was discovered accidentally in 1901 under the cathedral together with Celtic grave slabs. Another curious fact connected with this cathedral: Its cathedral choir school was founded in 1432 and it still exists today, making it the oldest school of this kind in Ireland.

St. Patrick's statue in Saul, Down St. Patrick's statue in Saul, Down     

Saul is a town near Downpatrick in County Down. This site, where St. Patrick landed as a missionary and reposed several decades later, is considered to be holy by many. A modern memorial church in honor of St. Patrick was built on the reputed site of the barn which the saint first used for holding services. It also has a replica of the round tower. There is a massive statue of St. Patrick nearby with scenes of his Life made in bronze.

A chapel, the bell-tower and penitential beds on Station Island, Lough Derg, Donegal A chapel, the bell-tower and penitential beds on Station Island, Lough Derg, Donegal     

There is an island called Station Island in Lough Derg in County Donegal. It has been regarded as a holy place, especially for sinners, penitents and pilgrims since the fifth century. According to the late twelfth-century Roman Catholic version, the Savior appeared to St. Patrick when he was visiting this island and showed him the cave which allegedly was the gate to “purgatory”. Penitents from all over Ireland and later from all over Western Europe flocked to this spot every year for repentance, prayer, spiritual healing and various practices, which included staying alone for twenty-four hours in a cave-pit. Catholic pilgrimages continue today as well. There was a Celtic monastery on this island from the fifth century, which was replaced by an Augustinian one in the twelfth century. A church, penitential beds (originally used as beehive cells by hermits), a bell tower and other relics survive on Station Island and St. Patrick’s statue stands near it. There are dozens and dozens of Catholic, Anglican churches and holy wells dedicated to St. Patrick all over Ireland.

In art St. Patrick is often depicted in bishop’s vestments, often trampling on snakes, often blessing, or holding a shamrock in his hand. A shamrock is a small clover that has three leaves joined on one stem—three in one. According to a later story, St. Patrick used shamrock to explain the unity of the Holy Trinity to the newly baptized Irish nation. Today the shamrock is a national emblem of Ireland.

From the surviving relics closely associated with St. Patrick let us mention his tooth and his personal bell which are kept at the Irish National Museum in Dublin. There is an Orthodox service to St. Patrick in English, composed by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, together with the Vigil with polyelios dedicated to him. There are Orthodox parishes dedicated to St. Patrick in Ireland (the Romanian parish of Sts. Patrick and Calinic in Cork, St. Patrick’s parish of the Diocese of Sourozh in Waterford) and in the USA. Since 2017 this saint has been officially venerated throughout the Russian Orthodox Church, and the veneration of this universal saint in the Russian-speaking world is gaining ground.

The fame of and veneration for St. Patrick long ago reached the USA, Australia and other countries with their significant Irish communities. Numerous churches in English-speaking countries are dedicated to him, for example the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Manhattan, New York City, and the RC Cathedral and minor Basilica in Melbourne. Churches or cathedrals which bear the name of our saint can be found in such countries as Canada (St. Patrick’s RC Basilica in Montreal), New Zealand (Sts. Patrick and Joseph RC Cathedral in Auckland), India (the RC cathedral in Pune), Pakistan (the RC cathedral in Karachi), France, Germany, Italy, and even Madagascar.

Rock cut graves next to St. Patrick's Chapel in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham) Rock cut graves next to St. Patrick's Chapel in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham)     

St. Patrick has always been especially venerated on the northwestern coast of England and southwestern coast of Wales. There used to be at least eight ancient St. Patrick’s churches and chapels in England. There are a few ancient holy sites in north-western English counties associated with our saint in the memory of his alleged visits to this region, testified to by tradition. The most important of these is the village of Heysham in Lancashire, on the coast of the Morecambe Bay of the Irish Sea. This holy spot is visited by Orthodox pilgrims, for example by the Antiochian Orthodox community in Lancaster. This village notably has two Saxon church structures: St. Patrick’s ruined chapel and the active St. Peter’s Church (both pre-Norman). Tradition holds that St. Patrick visited Heysham on one of his journeys across the Irish Sea and built a chapel here.

St. Patrick's Anglo-Saxon Chapel in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham) St. Patrick's Anglo-Saxon Chapel in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham)     

St. Peter's Church, Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham) St. Peter's Church, Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham)     

The current chapel has been rebuilt, but dates back to the mid-seventh century. There is a unique row of rock-cut Saxon graves beside the chapel, which were carved out of the clifftop. They are among the most interesting early Christian tombs in Britain. A descriptive panel by the chapel says that initially there was only one large grave of a person of spiritual authority—possibly a hermit or even a saint, and other people asked to be buried alongside him or her. It is presumed that the chapel in fact marks the site of a hermitage cell. The Saxon cemetery dates from the same period as the chapel or even slightly earlier. St. Peter’s Anglican Church is considerably larger than the chapel. It was mentioned in 1080 and even at that time it was considered to be old. The present chancel was built in the fourteenth century, and the church has Saxon, Norman, Gothic and Gothic Revival elements. Outside the church are the lower part of a Saxon cross shaft and a Saxon sandstone doorway. The site preserves an atmosphere of holiness. The chapel and the church are just fifty-four yards from one another.

9th century Saxon Cross, St. Patrick's site in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham) 9th century Saxon Cross, St. Patrick's site in Heysham, Lancs (kindly provided by St. Peter's parish in Heysham)     

St. Patrick's well in Patterdale, Cumbria (kindly provided by the parish in Patterdale) St. Patrick's well in Patterdale, Cumbria (kindly provided by the parish in Patterdale)     

Another important site is called Glenridding. It is situated in the valley of Patterdale, which was named after St. Patrick. It sits in Cumbria near the picturesque Lake Ullswater. The local St. Patrick’s baptismal holy well, sitting next to a major road, was reputedly blessed by St. Patrick himself in 450. This holy well offers one of the most breathtaking views (towards the Patterdale hills) in England. There is still a large stone well house over the well that contains very clear water. Formerly it was intended for bathing, though it would not be possible today with a road a step away from it. A local legend has it that the apostle of Ireland was shipwrecked at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and travelled inland towards this lake, where he converted the inhabitants—hence the baptismal well in Glenridding. The local parish church in Patterdale less than a mile away is also dedicated to St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's Church in Patterdale, Cumbria (taken from Visitcumbria.com) St. Patrick's Church in Patterdale, Cumbria (taken from Visitcumbria.com)     

One more important St. Patrick’s well is in Bromborough in Merseyside. It still produces a trickle of water. In the 430s the apostle of Ireland is believed to have baptized the locals in this well near the River Mersey. Its water reputedly cures eye diseases. In fact it is chalky and gathers in a small pool. It is located in the corner of a park commonly known as St. Patrick’s Wood (according to Nick Mahew Smith).

St. Patrick's RC Church in Soho, London St. Patrick's RC Church in Soho, London Additionally, in England there are St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Soho Square, London (one of the first Catholic places of worship built in the country after the Reformation); St. Patrick’s Anglican Church in Hove, East Sussex; the Church of England St. Andrew and St. Patrick’s Church in Elveden, Suffolk; the Church of England St. Patrick’s Church in Preston Patrick, Cumbria; and the Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Church in Woolston, Hampshire. In Scotland, there are the Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Churches in Edinburgh (eighteenth century) and in Greenock, Inverclyde.

In Wales, reputedly the oldest surviving church of this country is St. Patrick’s Church on Anglesey. It stands in a very scenic location at Cemaes Bay in Llanbadrig (“Church of Patrick”) parish. According to local legend, when St. Patrick was travelling from Gaul to Ireland, his vessel was struck by a violent storm off the Anglesey coast and the saint was marooned on what is now called YnysBadrig (“Patrick’s Island”), a tiny islet off Anglesey. With great difficulty the holy bishop reached Anglesey, where he lived in a cave and drank water from a spring of clear water (both still exist). In gratitude to God for his escape Patrick erected a chapel or a church on top of a cliff. The original church was simple, but this one is believed to be a twelfth-century stone reconstruction. Let us also mention St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Grangetown (Cardiff) and Our Lady and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Maesteg (Bridgend).


In conclusion, to help the reader better fathom the scope of St. Patrick’s activities and role in the spiritual history of Ireland, we offer this overview of some of his disciples who are venerated as saints as well. Their names are given according to their feast-days (old calendar) in order from September onwards, the beginning of the Church year:

Macanisius (Sept. 3), a much venerated saint, was baptized by St. Patrick, who most probably consecrated him bishop of Connor. He founded the famous Kells Monastery, always carried the Gospel on his shoulders (rather than in a special bag) and performed many miracles; Fiac (Oct. 12) was a bishop, friend and follower of St. Patrick, in whose praise he composed a hymn; Benignus (Nov. 9) was a favorite disciple and singer of St. Patrick, whom he most probably succeeded as the main bishop of Ireland, preaching in Clare, Kerry, founding Drumlease Monastery in Leitrim and other monasteries and contributing to the creation of the Psalter of Cashel; Seachnall, or Secundinus (Nov. 27) was a disciple of St. Patrick and served as the first Bishop of Dunseachnal or Dunshaughlin in Ireland and later in Armagh, he composed an alphabetical hymn in honor of St. Patrick which is still extant; Auxilius, Isserninus and Secundinus (Dec. 6) were co-workers of St. Patrick in the enlightenment of Ireland; Maughold (Dec. 28) was converted by St. Patrick and sent to the Isle of Man, much of which he evangelized; Guasacht (Jan. 24) was a son of the master under whom Patrick had worked as a slave—he was converted by Patrick, whom he helped as Bishop of Granard; Cinnia (Feb. 1) was a princess of Ulster who was converted by Patrick and became a nun; Jarlath (Feb. 1) succeeded St. Benignus as Bishop of Armagh; Mel (Feb. 6) was one of the four nephews of St. Patrick, sons of Darerca, Patrick’s sister, who accompanied Patrick to Ireland and became the first Bishop of Ardagh; Mun (Feb. 6) was another of Patrick’s nephews whom he consecrated as a bishop, and who later lived as a hermit on an island in Lough Ree; Loman (Feb. 17) was another nephew of Patrick and the first Bishop of Trim; Bolcan (Feb. 20) was baptized by Patrick and later became Bishop of Derkan in north Ireland; Ciaran (March 5) was a great saint who with Patrick’s blessing became the first Bishop of Ossory and founder of Saighir Monastery; Auxilius (March 19) was a co-worker of Patrick in his mission and became Bishop of Killossey; Darerca (March 22) was a sister of St. Patrick (the other one was Lupida) who had many sons, some ten of whom are said to have become bishops; Trien (March 22) was a missionary-abbot of Killelga; Macartan (March 24) was a companion of Patrick who made him Bishop of Clogher; Sincheall (March 26) founded Killeigh Monastery in Offaly where there were over 100 monks; Machai (Apr. 11) was a disciple of Patrick, he founded and became abbot of a monastery on the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland; Tassach (Apr. 14 ) studied under St. Patrick, who founded a church in Raholp and made him the first bishop of the area; Assicus (Apr. 27) was a married skilled metal worker in brass and copper and bell-founder, who made chalices, patens, and metal book-covers for churches built by Patrick, who later put him at the head of the monastery and diocese of Elphin; Carantac (May 16) was a Welsh prince who worked with Patrick in the enlightenment of Ireland; Bron (June 8) served as Bishop of Cassel-Irra near Sligo; Moeliai (June 23) was baptized by Patrick who installed him as Abbot of Nendrum, where among his disciples were Sts. Finian and Colman; Crummine (June 28) was blessed by Patrick to serve in the church of Leccuine (Lackan), where he became abbot and most probably a missionary-bishop; Idus (July 14) was baptized by Patrick and later served as Bishop of Alt-Fadha in Leinster; Movean (July 22) served as Abbot of Inis-Coosery Monastery in Down and ended his days as a hermit in Perthshire, Scotland; Nissen (July 25) was converted and ordained by Patrick and served as Abbot of Mountgarret in Wexford; Rioch (Aug 1) was another nephew of St. Patrick and Abbot of the famous Innisboffin Monastery in Longford; Trea (Aug 3) was converted by Patrick and spent the rest of her life as an anchoress in Ardtree in Derry; Murtagh (Aug. 13) was probably a relative of St. Patrick, who consecrated him as first Bishop of Killala in Mayo—however this saint ended his life as a hermit on the island of Innismurray.

Holy Hierarch Patrick of Ireland, pray to God for us!

Dmitry Lapa


1 The citation source: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/nenius.asp

2 The citation source: http://www.irishchaplaincyparis.fr/2013/03/the-deers-cry-a-hymn-by-st-patrick/It is a shortened form of one of the two versions of this prayer.

Daniel Marshall3/17/2020 3:09 pm
Love this. I am a convert to the orthodox faith. Always love St Patrick. St. Pray for me a sinner. Strengthen me in these days of trouble. Help hold strong to the fast of holy lent. Guide me to the resurrection of our lord and savior that I might celebrate in his holy resurrection!
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