Thursday, 12 September 2013

Saint Patrick's Confessio

As you can imagine Ireland is proud of its Christian traditions and of its many writers. Hence the alternative name for Ireland which is often called the "Land of Saints and Scholars."

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland kicked these writings off and is known as St Patrick'c Confessio. Many people will know the history of St Patrick. He was born on the west coast of Britain when under the Roman invasion. From there he was transported to Ireland as a slave.

Ireland at this time was a rural, tribal culture based almost exclusively on the religion of the Druids. Patrick worked as a herdsman for six years, before he escaped and returned home. In a dream he saw the people of Ireland calling him back to lead them to Christianity and so he returned.

Pope Celestine had already sent a man known as Palladius in 431 AD to bring Christianity to Ireland. Palladius had some success in converting some of the Irish barbarians to Christianity. He is however a forgotten man and little is known of what he achieved.
st patricks confessio
Mesolithic Settlement near Coleraine Ireland

Enter St Patrick

Patrick wrote two important documents in Latin which were:

  1. The Confessio (Confession)
  2. Letter to Coroticus
These represent the first Irish Christian writings. The Confession in particular was written in a direct response to the public criticism he had received. In this he explained how he had come to be in Ireland, and what the nature of his mission actually was.

It is a story essentially of his spiritual journey. The original document no longer exists, but a version of this remains in the "Book of Armagh." Armagh is now known as the formal birthplace of Irish Christianity and is where you will find the very beautiful St Patrick's Cathderal.
Saint Patrick's Cathedral Armagh
Saint Patrick's Cathedral Armagh

His confession became the basis of the hagiography that ultimately made his name. In fact his own self portrait is quite different to the way he was represented by other artists.