10 Facts about St. Patrick We Bet You Didn’t Know!February 24, 2017 10:00 am
Learn more about the iconic saint behind the national holiday. Here’s some lesser-known facts about St. Patrick.
St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner and we thought we’d check out the history books to find out more about Ireland’s patron saint. While his name day is celebrated around the country with parties and parades, what do we know about the man himself? Want to know more? Check out our favourite 10 facts about St. Patrick that you may not know!
St. Patrick wasn’t actually Irish
Despite being the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick was born in Britain in either Scotland or Wales (accounts tend to vary on that point). His parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa, were both Roman citizens and his mother gave birth to him in 385AD.
Slavery was what brought St. Patrick to Ireland
As a teenager, St. Patrick was kidnapped by a pirate raiding party and sold into slavery in Ireland. As a slave, he looked after and herded sheep for many years before fleeing to a monastery in England. While there, he became a devout follower of Christianity and ordained a Bishop, after which he returned to Ireland as a missionary.
The shamrock as an Irish symbol is said to have been popularised by St. Patrick
As the stories go, St. Patrick supposedly used the iconic shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity while preaching. With each leaf representing Christianity’s Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it was a symbol that showed how they could be three different spiritual entities and yet all part of the same whole.
St. Patrick actually wore blue, not green
Although everyone is expected to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, all surviving artworks of St. Patrick show him wearing blue robes. It’s the reason why through the years, flags, sports uniforms and coat-of-arms featured the colour. As time progressed, green as a national colour grew in favour particularly in the 17th century.
St. Patrick probably didn’t drive all the snakes out of Ireland
One of the most popular myths about the Irish saint is that he rid the country of snakes, however modern science has since ruined that belief for everyone. As Ireland has always been an incredibly cold country, scientists have said that it’s highly unlikely that there were any snakes to begin with and there are no fossils to disprove the theory.
Patrick was not St. Patrick’s given name
St. Patrick’s given name was Maewyn Succat. It wasn’t until he became a priest that he adopted a new name – Patrick, after Patricius (which relates to the Latin root meaning father).
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St Patrick’s Day is held on the day he passed away
In the Catholic tradition, the day a saint passes away is considered a holy day to celebrate their ascension into heaven. St. Patrick passed away on March 17 and it continues to be when St. Patrick’s Day is held annually.
St. Patrick isn’t technically a saint
While he’s been given the title in popular lore, St. Patrick was never actually officially canonised as a saint. However many still recognise his contributions to the Catholic church and he remains a spiritual figure to this day.
‘Drowning the shamrock’ is said to have started with St. Patrick
The tradition of drinking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is said to have started with the saint himself, who announced that everybody should have ‘a drop of the hard stuff’ after an innkeeper was less than forthcoming with a bottle of whiskey. While there was a brief period where drinking on St. Patrick’s Day was banned, the tradition has since returned in full force.
St. Patrick’s walking stick grew into a tree while he was preaching
Another popular tale regarding St. Patrick tells the story of how he left his ashwood walking stick in the ground, while he went off to try and convert the villagers of a small town to Christianity. The effort took so long however that the walking stick became an ash tree which the town takes its name from – Aspatria, Cumbria.