Saint Patrick has been a figure of legend for over one and a half thousand years and the legend is so powerful that the real man has become lost….The real Patrick was a figure of controversy in Britain rather than the perfect saint which is depicted in the legend. One reason for this is that Patrick tells us that at the age of 15 he committed a sin and as he says this was a sin that was committed in ‘a single hour in a single day’ – cue a lot of speculation as to the nature of Patrick’s sin. He tells this sin to his best friend and his best friend shatters Patrick’s confidentiality and makes it widely known among the hierarchy of the British church. As a result of this, British churchmen…seem to have rejected his wish to become a missionary in Ireland with their official sanction. Despite the fact that he is rejected by the British hierarchy he does go to Ireland as a bishop…probably a self-proclaimed bishop and he certainly was not made a bishop by the Pope as the later Irish legend tells us…
Dr Elva Johnston
In a podcast for the History Hub.ie podcast series, Professor Elva Johnston (UCD) tries to separate the historical man Patrick from the mythical legend of Ireland’s patron saint.
Professor Johnston lectures on early medieval Ireland in the School of History at University College Dublin. Her research focuses on the histories of conversion, hagiography, literacy and sexuality. Her articles situate these within their broader international contexts.
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Image: Saint Patrick stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, California, USA. By Sicarr (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons