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A stroll through Saint Patrick’s Ireland

A stroll through Saint Patrick’s Ireland
Saint Patrick's Day

Why do we wish one another a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17 – the anniversary of the Saint’s death in the year 461?

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  1. Saint Patrick was British, not Irish, and was born to Roman parents as Maewyn Succat whose name was changed to Patricius.
  2. According to legends, Patrick was kidnapped by the Irish and forced into slavery. 
  3. Saint Patrick’s Day became associated with the color green after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 1700s.

March 17 marks the annual celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Pádraig in Irish. Patrick was born “Maewyn Succat” but changed his name to “Patricius” after becoming a priest. He was British, not Irish, and was born to Roman parents. Most legends state he was kidnapped by the Irish and forced into slavery. 

Irish immigrants began observing St. Patrick’s Day in Boston in 1737, and the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America was held in New York City in 1762 by Irish serving in the British military. 

Saint Patrick did not don green. His color was “Saint Patrick’s blue,” the color of the Irish presidential flag. The color green became associated with St. Patrick’s Day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 1700s.

On a FAM trip to Ireland with Collette Tours, we visited several places associated with Saint Patrick.  St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh is believed to have been built upon a stone church constructed by Saint Patrick in 445 AD. Down Cathedral in Downpatrick is believed to be the location of his burial site after his demise in 461 AD.

Croagh Patrick, in Westport, County Mayo, is a mountain where Saint Patrick is said to have fasted at its summit 40 days and nights. Pilgrims gather at the mountain to commemorate Patrick’s piety.

Slemish Mountain in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is where it is believed Saint Patrick worked as a slave for approximately 6 years.

The Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, was originally the royal seat of the kings of Munster (Southwest Ireland). Their ancestors were Welsh.

My family has a personal connection to Saint Patrick. British records document my ancestry back to Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. He was my 25th great grandfather. Irish literature recounts Dermot’s ancestry back to Óengus mac Nad Froích – Aengus, the first Christian King of Munster. King Aengus, my direct ancestor, was baptized a Christian in the royal seat of Cashel by Saint Patrick himself.

Patrick was said to have done many great works, but clearly his greatest gift changed the course of civilization as we know it. He was responsible for bringing literacy to Ireland. Literacy was lost almost completely during the dark ages, which began after the Germanic Visigoths sacked Rome and burned the libraries. Art, culture, science, and government are all rooted in ancient texts which, thanks to Saint Patrick, survived millennia. The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, Plato, Aristotle, The Old and New Testament surely would have been lost forever had Patrick not founded the monastic movement which copied and preserved ancient texts. Everyone in the western world who can read and write, owes a debt of gratitude to Saint Patrick for making it happen.

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About the author

Dr. Anton Anderssen - special to eTN

I am a legal anthropologist. My doctorate is in law, and my post-doctorate graduate degree is in cultural anthropology.