17th March is Saint Patrick’s Day. He is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but who was he really? What is the truth and what is the myth?

St-Patrick

When I was a child, we were taught in school that Patrick killed all of the snakes in Ireland.

However, this is just a myth. It is unlikely that Ireland has ever had snakes because snakes live in warmer countries.

What we do know about Patrick is that when he was a child he lived in England. This part of England was a Christian country at the time because it had been invaded by the Romans.

As a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland. He became a slave and spent his days herding animals on a farm. The farm was owned by Druids, an ancient Irish people who were pagans.

He later moved back to England. At the age of 40, he had a dream telling him that he must return to Ireland and teach the Druids about Christianity.

shamHe used the shamrock, a special Irish leaf (photo), to teach the Druids about Christianity and the Trinity (the idea that there are three parts to God; the father, the son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit).

He built 300 churches and christened 120,000 people. Because of Patrick, Ireland is now a Christian country.

The snakes are a metaphor: it  believed that Patrick didn’t rid Ireland of physical snakes, but that the snakes represent the “evil, pagan ways” of the Druids in Ireland. So Patrick rid Ireland of evil.

Patrick died on the 17th March 461AD. This is why today we celebrate St Patrick’s Day.


Vocabulary: myth (n), kidnap (v), herd (v), to christen (n), to rid (a place) of (something) (v), evil (adj), pagan (n+adj)