Rumor: St. Patrick wasn't Irish

St. Paddy a Scotsman? It's no malarkey.

CONFIRMED: According to legend St. Patrick was born in Scotland, not Ireland

The famous St. Patrick, whose dedicated holiday increases corned beef, alcohol and leprechaun-outfit sales around the world, is the patron saint of Ireland and associated with all things Irish. So it may come as a surprise to some to learn that the saint was born in Scotland and didn't come to the Emerald Isle until age 14 — as a slave.

Captured and enslaved

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia and American Catholic, St. Patrick, likely originally named Maewyn Succat, was born in 387 near Dumbarton, Scotland, and he died in Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 461. The son of Roman parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa, he lived in Scotland until around age 14 when he was supposedly captured during a pagan raiding party, dragged to Ireland as a slave, sold to a local chieftain and tasked with herding sheep.

Escape and return to Ireland

The legend continues that Patrick was held captive until age 20, at which time he escaped and reunited with his family after experiencing a vision from God. Returning later to Ireland after witnessing another supposed vision from God and completing his studies for the priesthood, Patrick went on to become the driving force at converting pagans to Christianity throughout Ireland and became the first bishop of Armagh.

Video: Tour St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland

Two Patricks?

Many theologians follow a theory involving two separate St. Patricks. Irish scholar T.F. O'Rahilly popularized the theory in 1942 that two Patricks existed: the first, who was the aforementioned Scottish boy-turned-slave-turned-bishop, and Palladius, who was said to be sent from France by Pope Celestine I as the first bishop to Irish Christians in the year 431. Other legends involving St. Patrick include his use of a shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity, his supposed ability to raise the dead, his driving of snakes from the Irish shores and the establishment of the color blue — not green — to represent the saint.

Animation: The story of St. Patrick



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