the apostle and patron saint of Ireland.
The legends and traditions respecting this celebrated personage, preserved in the Acta Sanctorum, in his life by Jocelin, a monk of Furness abbey, in Lancashire, who flourished during the twelfth century, and in the Irish annals and ecclesiastical records, present such a mass of contradictions and improbabilities, that many critics have been induced to deny his very existence, while others have sought to remove a portion of the difficulties which embarrass the inquiry, .by supposing that there were two, three, four, or even five individuals who flourished at periods not very remote from each other, who all bore the name Patricius, and who were all more or less concerned in the conversion of Ireland from paganism.
The only document in which we can repose any confidence is an ancient tract entitled Confessio S. Patricii,
a sort of autobiography, in which he gives an outline of his life and conversation. If we admit that this curious piece is genuine, we may perhaps learn from it'that the author was a native of Scotland, born in the village of Benaven
or Bonavemn Taberniae,
which is generally believed to have occupied the site of the modern Kilpatrick, situated on the right bank of the river Clyde, a few miles above Dumbarton, very near the point which marked the termination of the Roman wall.
He was the son of Calpornius, a deacon, the grandson of Potitus, a presbyter.
At the age of sixteen he was taken prisoner by pirates, and conveyed along with a number of his countrymen to Ireland, where he was employed as a shepherd. Having made his escape, he reached home in safety; but in the course of a few years was again carried off, and in two months again obtained his freedom. During his first captivity he was led to meditate upon his own depraved and lost condition, was gradually awakened to a sense of the truth, and became filled with an earnest desire to proclaim the promises of the Gospel to the heathen by whom he was surrounded. Visions were vouchsafed to him from on high, on several occasions he was empowered to work miracles, and at length, under the conviction that he was directly summoned by Heaven, determined to devote his life to the task thus imposed upon him by God. No allusion whatsoever is made to his visit to France and Italy or to his ordination by Pope Coelestinus, upon which so much stress is laid in the later and more formal monkish compilations.
It must not be concealed, however, that although a lively local tradition supports the opinion that Kilpatrick in Dumbartonshire was the birth-place of the saint, and although the inhabitants of that district still point out a miraculous fountain and a rock bearing his name, many of the most learned Irish historians maintain that the epithet Brito.
upon which so much has been founded, refers not to Britain but to Armorica, and bring forward strong evidence to prove that Bonavem Taberniae
is Boulogne-sur-mer on the coast of Picardy.
The arguments are stated very fully in Lanigan's Eccle siastical History of Ireland, chapter iii.
According to several of the most ancient national authorities the mission of St. Patrick commenced during the reign of Laoghaire, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages (A. D. 429-458); but the book of Lecan places him under Lughaidh, a son of the former (A. D. 484-508), while the Annals of Connaught assign his birth to A. D. 336, and his captivity to A. D. 352. Mr. Petrie, in his learned dissertation on the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill, enters deeply into the investigation, and arrives at the conclusion that if we assume that there was a second Patrick in Ireland during the fifth century, and that many of the acts of the first or great St. Patrick have been falsely ascribed to his namesake and successor, then Irish as well as foreign testimonies nearly concur in the following facts: -- 1.
That he was born in the year 372. 2.
That he was brought captive into Ireland in the sixteenth year of his age, in 388, and that after four or seven years' slavery he was liberated in 392 or 395. 3.
That on the death of Palladius, in 432, he was sent to Ireland as archbishop, having been first, according to some authorities, consecrated by Pope Coelestinus, or, as others state, in Gaul, by the archbishop Amatorex, or Amator. 4.
That he arrived in Ireland in 432, and after preaching there for sixty years, died in the year 492 or 493, at the age of about one hundred and twenty years. 5.
That he was interred either at Saul or Down.
Several works still extant bear the name of Patricius.
This, as may be gathered from what has been said above, is not, like many ecclesiastical Confessiones,
to be regarded as an exposition of the views of the author upon difficult points of doctrine and discipline, but as a sketch of his own religious life, and especially as an account of the mental process by which he was first roused to spiritual exertion, the narrative being addressed to the people among whom he preached the Word.
It was first published by Ware, in his edition of the Opuscula attributed to St. Patrick, from several MSS. preserved in different parts of England and Ireland; among which is the renowned Book of Armagh, long believed to have been traced by the hand of the saint himself. To inquire into the authenticity of the Confession when so little can be ascertained with regard to the supposed author would be a mere waste of time; but it ought to be remarked that it is composed in a very rude style, and although evidently interpolated here and there, is to a considerable extent free from the extravagance which characterises the collections of the Bollandists and the memoir of Jocelin.
The writer, whoever he may have been, alludes repeatedly to his own want of education and to his literary deficiencies.
On the wickedness of a Welsh prince, Coroticus, who, in a descent upon Ireland, had taken many Christian prisoners, and was keeping them in cruel slavery.
This letter is expressly mentioned by Jocelin.
It was first published in the Acta Sanctorum under the 17th of March from a very ancient MS., in which it was subjoined without a break to the Confessio.
First published by Ware.
containing thirty-one canons.
The whole of the above canons, together with three others, are contained in Spelman's Concilia, Decreta, &c. in Re Ecclesiustica Orbis Britannici, fol. Lond. 1639, vol. i. p. 51,&c.
; also in Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Brittanniae et Hiberniae, fol. Lond. 1736-7, vol. i. p. 2, &c.
; and in Mansi, Collection Amplissima Conciliorumn, fol. Florent. 1761, vol. vi. p. 514, &c.
Highly doubtful works
Doubtful as every one of the pieces now enumerated must be considered, they possess more claims upon our attention than the following, which also are ascribed to St. Patrick, but are now generally admitted to be unquestionably spurious.
A fragment of which was made known by Gerard Vossius in his Miscellanea sanctorum aliquot Patrum Gr. et Latt., 4to. Mogunt. 1604, under the title S. Patricii Legatio a Coelestino prinmo Papa ad Conrersionern liberniae dirccti s. Epistola S. Patricii Apostoli Hiberniae ex Bibl. Monasterii Glastoniae in quo ipse Abbas fuit antequam esset Episcopus Hiberniae.
It was first published entire by Ware.
Ascribed by some to Augustin.
Ascribed by some to Cyprian, by others to Augustin.
The first complete edition of the tracts attributed to St. Patrick is that by Sir James Ware (Jacobus Waraeus), 8vo. Lond. 1656. This was reprinted by Galland in his Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. x. p. 159-182, fol. Venet. 1774
, together with some remarks taken from the Bollandists.
See also his Proleg.
cap. iv. The most recent and useful edition is that of Joachimus Laurentius Villanueva, 8vo. Dublin, 1835
, which contains a number of very serviceable annotations.
For an account of the statements contained in the Irish records, consult the essay by Mr. Petrie quoted above, which is to be found in the 18th volume of the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy.
See also Schönemann, Biblioth. Patrum Lat.