IV: Saint Patrick in legend and history
study of Patrick, the only known British writer
of this time, is important not only to establish
a number of historical dates and facts, but also
to further elucidate the ethnic and cultural
According to my
principles, an analysis of everything known about
St.Patrick starts with a careful examination of
his writings. I conclude that the crisis alluded
to in the Confession began when Patrick
was nominated by the Irish diocese as Bishop, and
that the British episcopal hierarchy discovered
that in his teen-age years he had gone through a
period of overt Paganism. I also make an analysis
of Patricks character and attitude.
I attack the
currently popular late dating of the Saint (dead
about 493) and argue for the early death-date of
457 or 462.
An analysis of
Muirchu as a writer, showing where and why he
misunderstood St.Patrick; including a quellenforschung,
showing that he drew his account from five
separate sources, including St.Patricks own
writings; and that one of these sources -
consisting in a few short annotations which had
already before Muirchus time been heavily
misunderstood - is very likely to include
original material. On the other hand, the famous
meeting with King Loegaire is not only
mythological, but has a clear and exact parallel
in British mythology.
together all remaining Patrician notices that
have a chance of being ancient or reflecting
ancient realities, and forms a coherent account
of the Saint. A chronology is offered:
- Before 377:
Patrick is born.
- Before 392:
he takes part in a public act of pagan
worship, probably to the Sun. Shortly
after, he is taken, along with
"thousands" of people from that
district, in an Irish slaving raid.
- Before 398:
- Before 407:
he is ordained priest by Amator, bishop
of Auxerre, and takes a post among the
diocesan clergy of his successor
- Between 407
and 429: no evidence of any outstanding
- About 425:
He witnesses his superiors freeing the
prisoners of Frankish raiders.
Germanus, Patricks superior,
travels to Britain to force the expulsion
of the Pelagians.
- 429-431: An
Irish diocese is planned and set up under
Palladius. Germanus, involved in the
search for suitable churchmen with Irish
experience, singles out Iserninus and
Patrick goes to Ireland with Palladius.
Palladius dies suddenly, leaving the
- After 432:
Patrick is elected head of the mission.
The British rake up his youthful
participation in pagan rites.
Prominent Pelagian leaders reappear in a
British region. Germanus, in one of his
last public acts, travels to the island
and procures their arrest and conviction.
- 440 or 441:
the new Pope, Leo I, hears Patrick's case
and accepts his orthodoxy. The British
bishops still insist on summonsing him to
- 442: The
Saxon revolt probably distracts the
British episcopate from their attempts to
destroy Patrick's mission.
Patricks follower Secundinus dies.
Before he died, he had written a Hymn
in defence of Patrick's character and
Loegaire son of Niall becomes king of
- 457 or
461/2: Patrick dies.
of Britain, 407-597 is copyright © 2002, Fabio
P. Barbieri. Used with permission.
to: Fabio P.