St Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17 by everyone around the world. While many see St Patrick’s Day as an excuse to drink endless pints of Guinness while wearing a green wig, there’s a little more to it than that.
So who was St. Patrick?
St Patrick was born around 385 AD. In his teens, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was put to work as a herdsman. After six years, he managed to escape and fled back to his home. He became a Christian priest before returning to Ireland as a missionary in the mid fifth century. He spent the next 30 years establishing schools, churches, and monasteries across the country. Patrick was later appointed as successor to St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland. He is said to have died on March 17 in the year 461.
Many myths have been told about the figure of St Patrick. In order to determine the truth, we need to see what history can tell us about his life.
St Patrick single-handedly converted the Irish people to Christianity.
The truth: Historians believe that there were already Christian believers in Ireland by the time Patrick arrived. Ireland also had strong trading links with the Roman Empire, and the religion is likely to have been spread.
St Patrick defeated the pagan druids.
The truth: This story is now believed to have been invented by a cleric, Muirchú, who lived two centuries later.
St Patrick droves the snakes from Ireland.
The truth: Well, there are no snakes in Ireland now (apart from those kept in zoos and as pets), but this may be because there never were any. Another theory is that the last Ice Age was too cold for snakes to survive and then the Irish Sea stopped them from breeding in Ireland.
St Patrick explained the Holy Trinity using the shamrock.
The truth: According to St Patrick’s Day lore, Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Christian holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, it is thought that this story was invented centuries later, according to experts.