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Muirchu: The Life of St. Patrick


St. Patrick is honored throughout the world today. Although perhaps only Catholics offer prayers to him, even non-Christians are aware of him.

Everyone knows that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and his feast day is March 17. On that day:

  1. People around the world, from Rwanda to Hong Kong, suddenly wear green and pretend to be at least a wee bit Irish.
    AP photo by DKJ
    White House Fountain Tinted Green (AP, 2021)
  2. Around the world public buildings —from Cairo Tower and Coit Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pizza, from the Sydney Opera House to the Atlanta City Hall and the Empire State Building— are illuminated with green flood lights.
  3. American cities, like Irish cities, hold parades. In Chicago it is the custom to change the double yellow line in the middle of State Street to a double green one, and to pour green dye into the Chicago River to show how Irish the city is.
  4. The world’s pubs flow with green tinted beer and Irish brands of whiskey. (One friend observes that St. Patrick has become a sort of Irish Bacchus.)
  5. People who otherwise speak no Irish greet one another with “Erin go Bragh!” and then correct themselves to say “Éire go Brách!”
  6. Americans gobble down corned beef and cabbage and potatoes. (Never mind that corning beef is originally English, not Irish, and potatoes came to Ireland from the Americas more than a millennium after Patrick’s time.)
  7. Greeting card companies market cards with leprechauns and pots of gold and shamrocks and putative old Gaelic blessings.

If anything is remembered about St. Patrick (ca. 387 – ca. 460), it is that he drove the snakes from Ireland (which he did not) and that he used a Shamrock to explicate the Holy Trinity (which he probably also did not). Some sources suggest that he lived to be 106 years old. That’s probably wrong as well.

photo by DKJ
Statue of St. Patrick, Erected at Tara

But, as with many early saints, there are lots of other stories about him too. For example, he was born in England towards the end of the fourth century, was abducted by Irish pirates, and, after escaping back to England, dedicated the rest of his life to bringing Christianity to the Irish. This story was almost certainly true.

Writings of Patrick himself include prayers as well as a couple of brief biographies (both beginning with the ringing words, “I, Patrick the Sinner, …” — Patricius Peccator …).

For the modern reader, a more accessible document is a biography of him written a couple of centuries later by a seventh-century Irish monk named Muirchu (Irish: Muirchú moccu Machtheni; Latin: Maccutinus), who gathered together “Patrick lore” to make a brief book or two. (It is not clear how many works were intended, since existing manuscripts of the work only partially overlap.)

The text of Muirchu presented here is based on an early XXth-century translation which I have slightly reformatted and reannotated. The on-line source is:


For some reason even professional librarians maintaining on-line archives are not always clear about their colophons. It appears that the paper original is:

WHITE, Newport J.D. (tr)
1920 “Muirchu’s life of St. Patrick” IN St. Patrick: His writings and life. London: The Macmillan Company. Pp. ???.

In modifying the text here and there, I have been dependent upon a more recent and more readable (but electronically unavailable and still under active copyright) bilingual edition:

1978 St. Patrick: His writings and Muirchu’s life. London: Phillimore.


Muirchu: The Life of St. Patrick

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Forasmuch as many, my Lord Aed, have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration according to that which their fathers and those who from the beginning were ministers of the word delivered unto them But these writers never attained to one sure track of history, on account of the extreme difficulty of the task of story-telling, and because of conflicting opinions, and the very many surmises of very many persons.

Therefore, if I mistake not, as our popular proverb has it, “like bringing boys into a council meeting,” I have brought the infantile rowboat of my feeble brain into this most dangerous and deep ocean of sacred story, where mountainous seas rage and swell, amidst sharpest rocks lying in unknown seas, an ocean on which no boat has as yet ventured, save only that of my father Cogitosus.

However, lest I seem to make a great thing out of what is small, I shall assay, in obedience to the command of thy holiness and authority, to unfold, piecemeal and with difficulty, these few out of the many actions of St. Patrick. My skill is small; my authorities are uncertain; my memory is treacherous; my intelligence is worn out; my style is poor; yet the feeling of my love is most pious.

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Chapter 1: Of the birth of Patrick and of his first captivity

Patrick, who was also called Sochet, was of the British race and born in Britain. He was the son of Cualfarnus [Calpurnius], a deacon, who, as he tells us himself, was the son of Potitus, a presbyter, who belonged to the town of Bannavem Thaburinde [Bannavem Taburniae], not far distant from our sea. We have ascertained repeatedly that this town is unquestionably [now called] Ventre. Moreover his mother’s name was Concessa.

When a lad sixteen years old, he was with others carried captive into this island of barbarians [Ireland], and was kept in slavery in the house of a certain chieftain, a heathen man and a harsh. He spent six years [in that captivity], as was the custom of the Hebrews; [he lived] in the fear and dread of God, according to the maxim of the Psalmist [Psalms 54:6], in many vigils and prayers. He used to pray a hundred times in the day-time, and a hundred times during the night, gladly rendering to God the things that are God’s, and beginning to fear God and to love the Almighty Lord; for up to that time he had been ignorant of the true God; but then the spirit was fervent within him.

There he endured many tribulations, suffering hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, the work of tending cattle. He had visits from the angel Victoricus, who was sent to him from God, and there were great miracles which are known to nearly everybody, [including] answers from God, of which I shall cite only the one or two following, as examples: “Thou fastest to good purpose, thou who art soon to go to thy native land,” and, “Lo, thy ship is ready.” The ship, although it was not near at hand, but was distant about two hundred miles, in a place to which he had never fared. After all these things, as we have said, things which it is scarcely possible for anyone to reckon up, he forsook the cruel heathen man and his works, and sailed to Britain in the twenty-third year of his age in the ship made ready for him, with strange, barbarous, and heathen men, who worshipped many false gods; yet taking into holy companionship the heavenly and everlasting God.

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Chapter 2: Of his voyage with the heathen, and his sufferings in the wilderness; of the food providentially brought to him and to the heathen

And so for three days and as many nights, like Jonah, he was storm-tossed with the ungodly; and after that, for twenty-eight days he had a weary journey through the desert — like Moses, and yet unlike him — the heathens, who were well nigh perishing from hunger and thirst, murmuring as did the Jews.

He was urged and tempted by the ship master, and he was requested to pray to his God for them, lest they should perish; he was prevailed on by mortals; he had compassion on the multitude; he was troubled in spirit, crowned for his worthiness, magnified by God; he supplied to them abundance of food from the herd of swine sent to him by God, as [the Israelites of old were supplied] from the flock of quails, by the help of God.

There was wild honey, too, such as once supplied the needs of John. But while John used locusts, swine’s flesh was substituted, in accordance with their deserts, for these vile heathen.

But the holy Patrick tasted naught of this food, for it had been offered in sacrifice to idols; yet he remained unharmed, neither hungry nor thirsty. But while he was asleep the same night, Satan assailed him sorely, fashioning huge rocks, and [with them] crushing his limbs; but he called twice upon Helias; and the sun rose upon him, and with its beams drove away all the mists of darkness, and his strength came back to him.

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Chapter 3: Of the second captivity which he endured for sixty days at the hands of his enemies

And again, after many years, he suffered captivity at the hands of foreigners. This time, on the first night, it was vouchsafed to him to hear an answer from God: “For two months thou shalt be with them; that is, with thine enemies.”

And so it came to pass; for on the sixtieth day the Lord delivered him out of their hands, and provided for him and his companions, food and fire and shelter, until on the tenth day they reached human habitations.

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Chapter 4: Of his reception by his relatives, when they recognized him

And again, after a few years, he found rest as beforetime in his own native land with his relatives, who received him as a son; and they entreated him, that after such tribulations and trials, he should never leave them for the rest of his life. But he consented not. And there many visions were shown to him.

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Chapter 5: Of his age when, going to visit the Apostolic See, he desired to learn wisdom

And he was thirty years of age, [having grown], as the Apostle says, “into a perfect man, into the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ” [Ephesians 4:23]. He set forth then to visit and pay his respects to the Apostolic See, the head of all the churches of the whole world, as one that was already wise in sacred mysteries to which God had called him, to learn and understand and fulfill them; and that he should preach and impart the grace of God to foreign nations, converting them to the faith of Christ.

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Chapter 6: How he found St. Germanus in Gaul, and therefore went no further

And so he crossed the southern British sea, and began his journey, intending to cross by the Gallic Alps to the furthest point, as he had purposed in his heart. Then he found the choicest gift [of God]: a certain very holy bishop, Germanus, ruling in his city of Alsiodorum [Auxerre].

With him he stayed no little time, just as Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel. And in all submissiveness, patience and obedience, [Patrick] learnt, loved and kept with all his heart all knowledge, wisdom, chastity, and everything that is profitable to the spirit and the soul, with great fear and love of God, in goodness and singleness of heart, a virgin in body and mind alike.

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Chapter 7: Of his age when the angel visited him, to the end that he might come hither

When he had spent there a long time, which some reckon as forty years, some as thirty, that ancient and very trusty one, [the angel] named Victoricus, who, when he was in slavery in Ireland, had told him all things before they came to pass, visited him in frequent visions, saying that the time had arrived for him to go, and with the Gospel to net fish for the wild and savage tribes to whom God had sent him to teach them. And there it was said to him in a vision, “The boys and girls of the Wood of Fochlath [Foclut] are calling thee,” and so forth.

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Chapter 8: Of his return from Gaul, and of the consecration of Palladius and his death soon afterwards

At the bidding therefore of a fitting occasion, and accompanied by his divine helper, he set forth on the journey which he had begun, to the work for which he had long since been prepared, the work, to wit, of the Gospel.

And Germanus sent an elder with him, that is, Segitius a presbyter, that he might have a witness and a companion, because he had not yet been ordained to pontifical rank by the holy lord Germanus.

They knew that Palladius, (the archdeacon of Pope Celestinus, bishop of the city of Rome, who then held the Apostolic See, the forty-fifth from Saint Peter the Apostle) had been consecrated and sent to convert this island [of Ireland], lying under the rigor of winter.

But God prohibited him; because no one can receive anything from earth unless it were given to him from heaven. Neither did those wild and rough people readily receive his teaching, nor did he himself desire to spend a long time in a land not his own; but he returned to him that sent him.

Returning then hence, [Palladius had] crossed the first sea; and, continuing his journey by land, he died in the country of the Britons.

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Chapter 9: Of his consecration by Bishop Amathorex after Palladius was dead

When tidings came of the death of St. Palladius in Britain (because the disciples of Palladius, viz. Augustinus and Benedictus and the rest, returned and spoke in Ebmoria of his death), Patrick and they who were with him turned aside to a certain famous man, a chief bishop, Amathorex [Amator] by name, who dwelt in the neighborhood. And there St. Patrick, knowing the things that were to happen to him, received the rank of bishop from Amathorex, the holy bishop. Moreover, Auxilius and Iserninus and others received lower degrees of the ministry on the same day that Patrick was consecrated.

Then, having received the benedictions, and all things having been accomplished according to custom. Moreover, with a special appropriateness to Patrick, this verse of the Psalmist was sung: “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalms 109:4]). Then, in the name of the Blessed Trinity, the venerable traveler got on board a ship prepared for him, and arrived in Britain. Dispensing with everything that could delay his journey [on foot], except what the requirements of ordinary life demand (for no one seeks the Lord by sloth), with all speed and with a favoring wind, he crossed our sea.

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Chapter 10: Of the heathen king who dwelt in Temoria, when St. Patrick came bringing baptism

photo by DKJ
The Unexcavated Citadel of Tara [Temoria]

Now in the days in which these things happened, there was in the aforesaid country a certain great king, a fierce and heathen High King of barbarians, reigning in Temoria [Tara], which was the capital of the kingdom of the Irish. He was Loiguire [Loegaire] by name, the son of Neill [Niall], who is the ancestor of the royal stock of almost the whole of this island.

Now he had about him wise men and magicians and augurs and enchanters and inventors of every evil art, who through their heathenish and idolatrous religion had skill to know and foresee all things before they came to pass. And of these there were two who were preferred beyond the others, whose names were, Lothroch, otherwise Lochru, and Lucetmael, otherwise Ronal.

And these two by their magical arts frequently foretold the coming of a certain foreign religion, in the manner of a kingdom, with a certain strange and harmful doctrine, brought from a long distance across the seas, proclaimed by a few, accepted by the many, and honored by all; one that would overturn kingdoms, slay kings that resist it, lead away multitudes, destroy all their gods, and, having cast down all the resources of their art, reign forever and ever.

Moreover they identified and foretold him who should bear and advocate this religion. And they prophesied in the following words cast into poetical form, words frequently uttered by them, more especially in the two or three years which preceded the coming of Patrick. Now these are the words of the poem, which are somewhat obscure, on account of the different idiom of the language.

  1. Adze-head will come
  2. With his crook-headed staff,
  3. And his house [chasuble] with a hole in its head.
  4. He will chant impiety from his table
  5. In the east of his house.
  6. His whole household will respond to him.
  7. So be it. So be it.

(This can be more plainly expressed in our language.)

  1. When therefore all these things come to pass,
  2. our kingdom, which is a heathen one, will not stand.

And so it afterwards came to pass. For the worship of idols having been overturned on the coming of Patrick, the faith of Christ — our Catholic faith — filled the whole land. But let this suffice on this matter. Let us return to our subject.

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Chapter 11: Of his first journey in this island, to the end that he might ransom himself from Miliucc before he rescued others from the devil

So, the holy voyage having been finished and completed, the ship of the Saint, laded with wonderful and spiritual treasures from beyond the seas, was borne, as to a con venient harbor, to the country of the Coolenni [Cualann], to a harbor famous in our country, which is called the Mouth of the Dee [Inverdee].

And when here, it seemed to him that there was nothing better for him to do than to ransom himself in the first instance. So he sought thence the north country, carrying a twofold ransom from slavery — to wit, an earthly and a heavenly — to that heathen man Miliucc, in whose house he had once lived in captivity, that he might deliver from [spiritual] captivity him whom he had formerly served as a captive.

So he turned the prow of his ship to the most easterly island which to this day is called by his name. Proceeding thence he left Breg [Breg] and the Conaille country, and also the Ulaid country on the left, and he entered the furthest point of an inlet which is Brene [Strangford Lough]. And he and they that were with him in the ship landed at the mouth of the Slain. And they hid their skiff, and went a very short distance into the country to rest there.

And a swineherd discovered them; he belonged to a certain man named Dichu, who, although a heathen, was of a good natural disposition. He lived in a place which is now known by the name of Patrick’s Barn [in Saul].

Now the swineherd, supposing that they were thieves and robbers, went and told his master Dichu, and brought him upon them without their being aware of it. Now he had purposed in his heart to slay them; but when he beheld the countenance of St. Patrick, the Lord turned his thoughts to good. And Patrick preached the faith to him; and there he believed in Patrick before anyone else did; and there the Saint rested with him for a few days.

But wishing to go with all speed to visit the aforesaid Miliucc, and bring him his ransom, and thus convert him to the faith of Christ, he left his ship in charge of Dichu, and began a land journey into the country of the Cruidneni [Cruiyhne], until he reached Mount Mis [Slemish]. Now, long before, in the time when he was a captive slave, he saw the angel Victoricus ascend from this mountain into heaven in his sight, with hurried step, leaving the print of his foot on the rock of a second mountain.

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Chapter 12: On the death of Miliucc, and Patrick’s words concerning his posterity

Now when Miliucc heard that his slave was coming to see him, to the end that he should, at the close of his life, adopt, as it were by force, a religion which he disliked, [fearing] lest he should be in subjection to a slave, and that he [the slave] should lord it over him, he committed himself to the flames, at the instigation of the devil and of his own accord. Having collected around him every article of his property, he was burnt up in the house in which he previously had lived as king.

Now St. Patrick was standing in the aforesaid place on the southern side of Mount Mis, where, coming with such gracious purpose, he first caught sight of the country where he had been a slave, a spot which is now marked by a cross. And at the first view of that country, there, under his eyes, he beheld the burning pyre of the king.

And so, stupefied at this deed, he spoke not a word for two or three hours. And then with sighs and tears and groans he uttered these words, and said, “I know not; God knoweth. As for this man, this king who hath committed himself to the flames, lest he should become a believer at the close of his life, and serve the everlasting God — I know not; God knoweth — none of his sons shall sit as king upon the throne of his kingdom from generation to generation; moreover his seed shall be in servitude for evermore. “

Having said this, he prayed and armed himself with the sign of the cross, and quickly bent his steps to the country of the Ulaid, by the same way that he had come, and arrived again at the Plain of Inis [Magh Inis], to Dichu. There he stayed many days; and he went round the whole countryside, and chose [clergymen], and did deeds of love; and there the faith began to grow.

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Chapter 13: Of the advice of St. Patrick when deliberating about the celebration of the first Passover

Now in those days Easter drew near, which was the first Passover celebrated to God in the Egypt of this island [of Ireland], as once it was [celebrated] in Goshen.

And they took counsel as to where they should celebrate the first Passover amongst the nations to whom God had sent them. And when many suggestions had been thrown out on this subject, at last it seemed good to Saint Patrick, inspired by God as he was, that this great feast of the Lord, which is the chief of all feasts, should be celebrated in the great plain [of Tara,] where was the chiefest kingdom of those tribes, which was the head of all heathenism and idolatry; that this unconquered wedge should be driven at the outset into the head of all idolatry, by the mallet of a mighty work joined with faith, [wielded] by the spiritual hands of St. Patrick and his companions, so that it should never more be able to rise against the faith of Christ. And go it came to pass.

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Chapter 14: Of the first paschal sacrifice that was made in this island

So they carried down their boat to the sea, and left the good man Dichu in full faith and peace. They departed from the Plain of Inis; and leaving on the right hand everything which had before been, naturally, on the left, [and leaving the spiritual care of them] to the [future] fulfillment of their ministry, they were borne well and prosperously to the harbor of the Mouth of the [the Boyne at] Colpdi [Drogheda].

And leaving the ship there, they proceeded on foot to the aforesaid great plain, until at last at evening, they reached “The Graves of the Men of Fecc [Fiacc],” which, as the story goes, was dug by the men, that is the slaves, of Feccol Ferchertni, who was one of the nine great prophets of Breg [Brega].

And having pitched his tent there, St, Patrick with his companions paid to the most high God the due vows of the Paschal feast and the sacrifice of praise with all devotion, according to the words of the prophet.

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Chapter 15: Of the heathen feast at Temoria the same night on which St. Patrick was engaged in his paschal worship

Now it happened that in that year the heathen were wont to celebrate an idolatrous feast with many incantations and magical devices, and other superstitions of idolatry. And there were also gathered together kings, satraps, leaders, princes and chief men of the people; and, moreover, magicians and enchanters and augurs and those who sought out and taught every art and every wile were called to Loiguire [Loegaire], as once upon a time to King Nebuchadrezzar, to Temoria [Tara], their Babylon.

photo by DKJ
The Lia Fáil stone, possibly once associated with fertility rites —well, pretty certainly, actually— is said to have cried out on recognizing legitimate kings of Tara. The UCSD student who irreverently mounted it did not cause the stone to cry out and has never been recognized as a king of Tara.

And it was on the same night that St. Patrick was observing the Paschal feast that they were celebrating their heathen festival. Moreover there was a custom amongst them, made know to all by an edict, that whoever in the whole district, whether far off or near, should in that night kindle a fire before one should have been lighted in the royal house, that is, in the palace of Temoria, his soul should be cut off from among his people.

Accordingly Saint Patrick, in his celebration of the holy Paschal feast, kindled a divine fire, very bright and blessed, which as it shone forth at night, was seen by almost all the dwellers in the plain.

Accordingly it happened that it was seen from Temoria; and when it was seen, all beheld it and were amazed. And when all the nobles and elders and magicians had been gathered together, the king said to them, “What is this? Who is it that has dared to do this impiety in my kingdom? Let him die the death!” And all the nobles and elders made answer, “We know not who has done this thing.”

Then the magicians answered and said, “O king, live forever. As for this fire which we behold, and which has been lighted up this night before one was lighted in thy house, that is, in the palace of Temoria, unless it be put out on this night on which it has been lighted up, it will not be put out forever. Moreover it will overcome all the fires of our religion. And he who kindled it, and the kingdom that will follow, from which it is kindled this night, will overcome both all of us and thee too, and it will draw away all the men of thy kingdom, and all kingdoms will yield to it, and he will fill all things, and will reign forever, and ever.”

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Chapter 16: Of King Loiguire’s march from Temoria to Patrick on the paschal night

When king Loiguire had heard these things, he was, like Herod of old, sore troubled, and all the city of Temoria with him. And he answered and said, “It shall not be so; but now we will go that we may see the issue of the matter; and we shall take and slay those who do such an impiety against our kingdom.”

And so, having yoked nine chariots, in accordance with the tradition of the gods, and taking with him for the conflict those two magicians who excelled all others, that is to say, Lucetmael and Lochru, Loiguire proceeded at the close of that night from Temoria to “The Graves of the Men of Fecc,” turning the faces of the men and of the horses to the left, in accordance with their notion of what is fitting [in such a case.]

And as they went on their way, the magicians said to the king, “O king, thou must not go into the place in which the fire is, lest afterwards perchance thou worship him who kindled it; but thou must be outside it, near at hand; and he will be summoned to thee, that he may worship thee and thou have dominion over him. And we and he shall parley with one another in thy presence, O king; and in this way thou wilt test us.”

And the king answered and said, “Ye have advised well; I will do as ye have said.” And when they arrived at the appointed place, they alighted from their chariots and horses; and they entered not into the enclosure of the place where the fire had been kindled; but took their seats close by.

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Chapter 17: Of how Patrick was called to the king; of the faith of Ercc son of Daig; of the death of the magician that night

And St. Patrick was called to the king outside the place where the fire had been kindled. And the magicians said to their people, “Let us not rise up at the approach of this fellow; for whosoever rises up at the approach of this fellow will afterwards believe in him and worship him.”

At last St. Patrick rose; and when he saw their many chariots and horses, he came to them, singing with voice and heart, very appropriately, the following verse of the Psalmist:

“Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses; but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God.”
The Ruined Monastery on the Site of Slane, Where Ercc's Relics Were Venerated at the Time of Muirchu
(From: Edel Bhreathnach & Conor Newman 1995 Tara. Dublin: Government of Ireland Stationary Office. P. 27.)

They, however, did not rise at his approach. But only one, helped by the Lord, who willed not to obey the words of the magicians, rose up. This was Ercc the son of Daig [Daeg], whose relics are now venerated in the city called Slane. And Patrick blessed him; and he believed in the everlasting God.

And when they began to parley with one another, the second magician, named Lochru, was insolent in the Saint’s presence, and had the audacity with swelling words to disparage the Catholic faith. As he uttered such things, Saint Patrick regarded him with a stern glance, as Peter once looked on Simon; and powerfully, with a loud voice, he confidently addressed the Lord and said, O Lord, who canst do all things, and in whose power all things hold together, and who hast sent me hither, as for this impious man who blasphemes Thy name, let him now be taken up out of this and die speedily.”

And when he had thus spoken, the magician was caught up into the air, and then let fall from above, and, his skull striking on a rock, he was dashed to pieces and killed before their faces; and the heathen folk were dismayed.

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Chapter 18: Of the wrath of the king and his people against Patrick, and of the stroke of God upon them, and of the transformation of Patrick in the presence of the heathen

Now the king with his people, enraged with Patrick on account of this thing, was minded to slay him, and said, “Lay hands on this fellow who is destroying us.”

Then St. Patrick, seeing that the ungodly heathen folk were about to rush upon him, rose up, and with a clear voice said, “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate him flee before him.”

And straightway darkness came down, and a certain horrible commotion arose, and the ungodly men fought amongst themselves, one rising up against another, and there was a great earthquake, “and [God] bound the axles of their chariots, and drove them with violence,” and they rushed in headlong flight — both chariots and horses — over the level ground of the great plain, till at last only a few of them escaped half alive to the mountain of Monduirn.

And, at the curse of Patrick, seven times seven men were laid low by this stroke in the presence of the king and his elders, until there remained only himself and his wife and two others of his companions; and they were sore afraid.

So the queen approached Patrick and said to him, “O man, righteous and mighty, do not destroy the king; for the king will come and kneel and worship thy Lord.” And the king, compelled by fear, came and knelt before the Saint, and feigned to worship Him whom he did not wish to worship.

And when they had parted from one another, the king went a little way, and called St. Patrick with feigned words, minding to slay him by some means. But St. Patrick, knowing the thoughts of the villainous king, blessed his companions (eight men and a lad) in the name of Jesus Christ, and came to the king. The king counted them as they came; and straightway they were nowhere to be seen, taken away from the king’s sight; but the heathen folk saw naught but eight stags and a fawn going as it were to the wilderness. And king Loiguire, with the few that had escaped, returned at dawn to Temoria sad, cowed and humiliated.

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Chapter 19: How Patrick came to Temoria on Easter day, and of the faith of Dubthach-maccu-Lugir

Now on the next day, that is, the day of the Paschal feast, the kings and princes and magicians of all Ireland were sitting at meat in Loiguire’s house, for it was the chiefest of their festivals.

And as they were eating and drinking wine in the palace of Temoria, and some were talking and others thinking of the things which had come to pass, St. Patrick came, with five men only — the doors being shut, just as we read about Christ — to contend for the holy faith, and preach the word of God in Temoria before all the tribes of the Irish people gathered there together.

When therefore he entered the banqueting hall of Temoria, no one of them all rose up at his approach save one only, and that was Dubthach-maccu-Lugil, an excellent poet, with whom there was staying at that time a certain young poet named Fiacc, who afterwards became a famous bishop, and whose relics are now venerated at Sleibti [Sletty].

This Dubthach, as I have said, alone of the heathen folk, rose up in honor of St. Patrick; and the Saint blessed him, and he was the first to believe in God that day; and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

So when Patrick appeared, he was invited by the heathen to partake of food, that they might test him in respect of things that should come to pass. He, however, knowing the things that should come to pass, did not refuse to eat.

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Chapter 20: Of the contest of Patrick with the magician on that day, and of his wonderful miracles

Now while all were feasting, the magician Lucetmael, who had taken part in the contest at night, was eager, even that day when his comrade was dead, to contend with St. Patrick. And, to make a beginning of the matter, he put, while the others were looking, somewhat from his own vessel into Patrick’s cup, to see what he would do.

St. Patrick, perceiving the kind of trial intended, blessed his cup in the sight of all; and, lo, the liquor was turned into ice. And when he had turned the vessel upside down, that drop only fell out which the magician had put into it. And he blessed his cup again, and the liquor was restored to its own nature; and all marveled.

And after [the trial of] the cup, the magician said, “Let us work miracles on this great plain.”

And Patrick answered and said, “What miracles?” And the magician said, “Let us bring snow upon the earth.” Then said Patrick, “I do not wish to bring things that are contrary to the will of God.” And the magician said, “I shall bring it in the sight of all.”

St. Patrick Driving the Snakes
Out of Ireland
(Mural, Ti-Manhattan, La Plaine, Haiti)

Then he began his magical incantations, and brought down snow over the whole plain to the depth of a man’s waist; and all saw it and marveled.

And St. Patrick said, “Lo, we see this thing; now take it away.” And he said, “I cannot take it away till this time to-morrow.” And the Saint said, “Thou art able to do evil, but not good; I am not of that sort.” Then he blessed the whole plain round about; and the snow vanished quicker than a word could be uttered, without any rain or cloud or wind. And the multitude shouted aloud, and marveled greatly.

And a little after this, the magician invoked his demons, and brought upon the earth a very thick darkness, as a miracle; and all murmured at it. And the Saint said to him, “Drive away the darkness.” But he could not in this case either. St. Patrick however prayed and uttered a blessing, and suddenly the darkness was driven away, and the sun shone forth. And all shouted aloud and gave thanks.

Now when all these things had been done by the magician and Patrick, in the sight of the king, the king said to them, “Throw your books into water; and we shall worship him whose books come out unharmed.”

Patrick replied, “I will do it.” But the magician said, “I do not wish to enter into a trial by water with this fellow; for water is his God.” (He had evidently heard of baptism by water given by Patrick.)

And the king answered and said, “Throw them into fire.” And Patrick said, “I am ready.” But the magician, being unwilling, said, “This man worships as his God water and fire in turn every alternate year.”

And the Saint said, “That is not so; but thou thyself shalt go, and one of my lads shall go with thee, into a house separated and shut up; and my garment shall be around thee, and thy garment around my lad, and thus shall ye together be set on fire; and ye shall be judged in the sight of the Most High.”

And this suggestion was adopted; and a house was built for them, whereof one half was built of green wood and the other half of dry. And the magician was put into the part of the house made of green wood; and one of Saint Patrick’s lads, named Benignus, was put with a magician’s robe into the part that was made of dry wood. The house was then shut up from the outside, and set on fire before the whole multitude.

And it came to pass in that hour, that as Patrick prayed, the flame of the fire burnt up the magician with the half of the house that was made of green wood, the cloak of Saint Patrick only remaining whole, inasmuch as the fire did not touch it. Benignus, on the other hand, was fortunate with the half of the house that was made of dry wood; for, as it is told about The Three Children, the fire did not touch him at all; nor was he alarmed, nor did it do him any harm; only the cloak of the magician which was around him was, by the will of God, burnt up.

And the king was greatly enraged against Patrick, because of the death of his magician, and he almost rushed upon him, having in mind to slay him; but God hindered him. For at the prayer of Patrick and at his cry, the wrath of God fell upon the ungodly people, and many of them perished.

And St. Patrick said to the king, “Unless thou believest now, thou shalt die speedily, because the wrath of God will fall upon thy head.” And the king feared exceedingly, and his heart was moved, and his whole city with him.

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Chapter 21: Of the conversion of King Loiguire, and of the words of Patrick concerning his kingdom after him

And so when the elders and all his senate were gathered together, King Loiguire said to them, “It is better for me to believe than to die.”

And after taking counsel, he believed on that day, by the advice of his friends, and turned to the everlasting Lord God of Israel; and there many others believed as well. And St. Patrick said to the king, “Because thou didst withstand my teaching, and wast a stumbling-block to me, although the days of thy reign shall be prolonged, nevertheless none of thy seed shall be king forever.”

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Chapter 22: Of the teaching, and baptism and miracles of St. Patrick, after the example of Christ

Now St. Patrick, according to the command of the Lord Jesus, to “go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” set out from Temoria and preached, the Lord working with him, and confirming the word with signs following.

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Chapter 23: Of Maccuil and his conversion at the word preached by Patrick

In Patrick’s time there lived in the country of the Ulaid folk a certain man named Maccuil-maccu-Greccse [Macuil Maccugreccae]; and this man was such a very ungodly, savage tyrant, that he was called “Cyclops.” He was depraved in his thoughts, violent in his words, malicious in his deeds, bitter in spirit, wrathful in disposition, villainous in body, cruel in mind, heathenish in life, monstrous in conscience, inclining to such a depth of ungodliness, that one day [he acted as follows].

There is a mountainous place, rugged and steep, in Druimm-maccu-Echaid [Druim Mocceuchach], where he daily practiced his tyranny, showing the vilest signs of cruelty, and slaying in cruel fashion strangers that passed by.

Now, one day, when he was sitting at this place, he saw St. Patrick radiating with the clear light of faith, and resplendent with a certain wonderful diadem of heavenly glory; he saw him, I say, walking, with unshaken confidence of doctrine, on a road agreeable thereto.

And he thought to slay him, and said to his followers, “Lo, here comes that deceiver and perverter of mankind, whose wont it is to do juggling tricks, that he may deceive and beguile many. Let us now go and test him, and we shall know if that God of whom he makes boast has any power.”

And so they tested the holy man in the following way: They placed one of their own number, who was in good health, in their midst covered with a blanket, feigning to be sick unto death, that they might test the Saint by a trick of this kind, calling the holy man a deceiver, his miracles jugglery, and his prayers charms and incantations.

When St. Patrick with his disciples came up, the heathen folk said to him, “Lo, one of us is now sick; come then, and chant over him some of the spells of thy religion, if perchance he may be healed.” St. Patrick, however, knowing all their deceits and tricks, said boldly and fearlessly, “It is no wonder he is sick.” And when his companions uncovered the face of the man who was feigning sickness, they perceived that he was already dead. And they, confounded and wondering at such a miracle, said one to another with groans, “Truly this is a man of God. We have done ill in testing him.”

But St. Patrick, turning to Maccuil, said, “Wherefore didst thou wish to test me?” That cruel tyrant answered and said, I am sorry for having done this; and I shall do whatsoever thou biddest me; and I hand myself over now into the power of thy most high God whom thou preachest.”

And the Saint said, “Believe then in my God, the Lord Jesus, and confess thy sins and be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” And he was converted in that hour, and believed in the everlasting God. Moreover he was baptized.

And Maccuil proceeded to say, “I confess to thee, my holy lord Patrick, that I purposed to slay thee. Give sentence therefore what punishment is due for a crime so great and of such a nature.” And Patrick said, “I cannot judge; but God will judge. Nevertheless, do thou now go forth unarmed to the sea, and depart quickly from this Irish land, taking nothing with thee of thy property save a cheap and small garment to cover thy body. Eat and drink nothing of the produce of this island; bear a mark of thy sin on thy head; and after thou hast reached the sea, lock thy feet together with an iron fetter, and throw the key of it into the sea. Place thyself in a boat made of a single hide, without either rudder or oars, and be ready to go whithersoever the wind and the waves may lead thee; and whatsoever land Divine Providence may bear thee to, dwell in it, and there practice obedience to the commandments of God.”

And Maccuil said, “I shall do as thou hast said. But what shall we do about the dead man?” And Patrick said, “He will live and rise again without pain. So Patrick raised him up in that same hour, and he lived again in good health.”

And Maccuil departed thence as quickly as possible to the sea that is south of the Plain of Inis [Magh Inis], possessing the unshaken confidence of faith. And he locked himself together on the shore, and threw the key into the sea, as he had been instructed; and he put to sea in a little boat; and the north wind blew on him, and bore him southwards, and cast him on an island named Evonia [the Isle of Man].

And there he found two men, very admirable, resplendent in faith and learning, who were the first to teach the word of God and baptism in Evonia. And the inhabitants of that island were, through their teaching, converted to the Catholic faith. Their names are Conindri and Rumili.

Now they, when they beheld a man dressed in only one garment, were amazed, and had pity on him, and drew him out of the sea, and received him with joy. He then, in a country allotted to him by God, where he found spiritual fathers, practiced both his body and soul in their rule; and passed the whole time of his life with those two holy bishops, until he was made their successor in the episcopate. This is Maccuil dimane, Bishop of Man and prelate of Arddse Huimnonn [Ardd Huimnonn].

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Chapter 24: Of the heathen folk working on the Lord’s day in defiance of Patrick’s instructions

Now on another occasion when St. Patrick was resting on the Lord’s Day at the seaside, by the salt marsh which is on the northern shore, not very far away from the Hill of the Ox, he heard a loud noise of heathen folk working on the Lord’s Day, making a rampart. Patrick called them and forbad them to work on the Lord’s Day. But they did not agree with what the Saint said; they even burst into laughter and mocked him.

And St. Patrick said, “Mudebrothf [Mudebrod]! Although ye labor, it will not profit you.” And this was fulfilled; for on the following night a mighty wind arose and stirred up the sea; and the storm destroyed the whole work of the heathen folk, just as foretold by the Saint.

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Chapter 25: Of the story of Daire, and of the horse, and of the presentation of Ardd-Machae to Patrick

There was in the country of Airthir a certain rich and honorable man named Daire. To him Patrick made request that he would grant him some place for the exercise of religion. And the rich man said to the Saint, “What place dost thou desire?” “I desire,” said the Saint, “that thou grant me that high ground which is called The Ridge of the Willow; and I shall build there a place.”

He was unwilling to give the Saint that high ground, but he gave him another place on lower ground, where is now The Graves of the Relics, near Ardd-Machae [Armagh], and there St. Patrick dwelt with his people.

Now some time after, there came a groom of Daire’s, leading his admirable horse, to graze on the grass land of the Christians. And Patrick was offended at the horse trespassing in this way on his ground; and he said, “Daire has done a foolish thing in sending brute beasts to disturb the little holy place which he gave to God.” But the groom was “like a deaf man and heard not, and as one that is dumb who doth not open his mouth. “ He said nothing, but went away, leaving the horse there for the night. But on the next day, when the groom came in the morning to see his horse, he found it dead already. So he went back home in grief, and said to his lord, “See, that Christian has killed thy horse; he was annoyed at the disturbance of his place.” And Daire said, “Let him be slain too; go ye now and kill him.”

And as they were going forth, a death stroke, quicker than a word, fell on Daire. And his wife said, “This death stroke is on account of the Christian. Let someone go quickly, and let his good offices [or, blessing] be brought to us, and thou wilt be cured. And let those who went forth to kill him be forbidden to do so, and be called back.”

So two men went forth to the Christian; and, concealing what had happened, they said to him, “Lo, Daire is sick; may something from thee be brought to him, in hopes he may be healed.” St. Patrick, however, knowing what had happened, said, “Certainly. And he blessed some water, and gave it to them, saying, Go, sprinkle your horse with this water, and take him away with you. And they did so; and the horse came to life again, and they took him away with them; and Daire was also healed by the sprinkling of the holy water.

And after these things Daire came to pay his respects to St. Patrick, bringing with him a wonderful bronze pot holding three gallons that had come from beyond the seas. And Daire said to the Saint, “Lo, this bronze pot is for thee.” And St. Patrick said, “Grazacham!” And when Daire returned to his own house, he said, “That is a stupid man, who said nothing more civil than ‘Grazacham’ in return for a wonderful bronze three-gallon pot.”

And Daire then proceeded to say to his servants, “Go, and bring us back our pot.” So they went and said to Patrick, “We are going to take away the pot.”

Nevertheless, St. Patrick, that time too said, “Grazacham! Take it away.” And they took it away. And Daire questioned his companions and said, “What did the Christian say when ye took back the pot?” And they answered, “He just said ‘Grazacham.’” Daire answered and said, “‘Grazacham’ when it is given! ‘Grazacham’ when it is taken away! His expression is so good that his pot must be brought back again to him with his ‘Grazachams’!”

And Daire came himself this time, and brought the pot to Patrick, saying, “Thy pot must remain with thee; for thou art a steadfast and unchangeable man; moreover, as for that parcel of ground which thou didst once desire, I give it thee now, in so far as I possess it; and do thou dwell there.” And that is the city which is now called Ardd-Machae [Armagh].

And they went both of them out, St. Patrick and Daire, to inspect the admirable and acceptable gift that was being offered; and they ascended that high ground, and found a hind with her little fawn lying where now stands the altar of the Northern Church in Ardd-Machae.

St. Patrick’s companions wanted to take the fawn and kill it; but the Saint did not wish this to be done, and would not allow it. Nay, on the contrary, the Saint himself took the fawn and carried it on his shoulders. And the hind followed him like a gentle and tame sheep until he let the fawn loose in another wood situated on the north side of Ardd-Machae. There, to this very day, the learned say there remain certain signs of his power.

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Chapter 26: Of the fruitful land turned into a salt marsh at Patrick’s word

The learned tell of a man who lived in the Plain of Inis, who was exceedingly harsh, and so grasping, and had run into such a pitch of folly and avarice, that one day when the booby saw the two oxen that drew St. Patrick’s wagon resting and grazing in a meadow of his farm after their holy labors, the silly man violently and inconsiderately drove them off by force, in the very presence of St. Patrick.

And St. Patrick, enraged with him, cursed him and said, “Mudebrod! Thou hast done ill; this field of thine shall be of no profit to thee or to thy seed forever; it shall be useless from this moment.” And so it came to pass; for an overflowing inundation of the sea came on that very day and flowed around and covered the whole field; and, as the prophet says, “A fruitful land was turned into a salt marsh for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” It has therefore been sandy and barren from the day on which St. Patrick cursed it to the present time.

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Chapter 27: Of the death of Moneisen, the Saxon lady

And so I shall endeavor, if the Lord will, to narrate a few [more] of the many miracles performed by Patrick, bishop and eminent teacher of all Ireland.

Once upon a time, when all Britain was numb with the chill of unbelief, there was a noble daughter of a certain king, and her name was Moneisen [Monesan]; and she was filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. When someone sought her in marriage, she did not consent; and, though bathed in tears, she could not be forced against her will to adopt what was the lower life. For she was wont — amidst blows and floods of tears — to ask her mother and her nurse to tell her who was the maker of the orb by which the whole world is lighted up; and she received an answer from which she ascertained that the maker of the sun is He whose seat is the heaven.

When she was constantly urged to join herself to a husband in the bond of matrimony, she used — illuminated by the brightest light of the Holy Spirit — to say, “I will on no account do this thing.” For she sought through nature the Maker of the whole creation; following in this respect the example of the patriarch Abraham.

Her parents, having taken advice given to them by God, heard of Patrick as a man who was visited by the everlasting God every seventh day; and they journeyed to Ireland with their daughter, looking for Patrick; and they found him after seeking for him with much toil. And he began to question them as if they were neophytes.

Then the travelers began to cry aloud and say, “We have had to come to thee, compelled on account of our daughter who is earnestly desirous to see God.” Then he, filled with the Holy Ghost, raised his voice and said to her, “Dost thou believe in God?” And she said, “I believe!” Then he washed her with the sacred laver of the Spirit and water. And almost immediately afterwards, falling on the ground, she yielded up her spirit into the hands of the angels. She was buried where she died.

Then Patrick prophesied that after twenty years her body would be reverently borne from that spot to a church hard by. And this afterwards came to pass; the relics of this maiden from beyond the seas are venerated there to this very day.

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Chapter 28: How St. Patrick saw the heavens open, and the son of God and his angels

There is a certain marvel wondrously wrought concerning the Christ-like and apostolic Patrick of whom we are speaking, which I shall unfold in a short narrative. As an experience of one still standing in the flesh, it is recorded only of him and of Stephen.

The Great Wall on St. Patrick's Day, 2016
(China Daily, 2016-03-14)

Once upon a time when he was going at night to a solitary place to pray, he gazed upon the familiar marvels of the heavens; and wishing to test his holy lad, who was most dear to him and trusty, he said, “O my son, tell me, I pray thee, if thou perceivest the things which I perceive. Then the little boy, whose name was Benignus, said without hesitation, I know now the things which thou perceivest; for I see the heaven opened, and the Son of God and His angels.”

Then Patrick said, “Now I perceive that thou art my worthy successor.”

Immediately they reached with quickened step the accustomed place of prayer. These prayers were said in the middle of the bed of a river; and the little boy said, “I cannot endure the chill of the water,” for the water was too cold for him. Then Patrick told him to go down from a higher to a lower position. Nevertheless, he was able to keep his ground there for a long while; for he used to declare that he felt the water [too] warm. Finally, not being able to stand long in that place either, he climbed on to the land.

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Chapter 29: Of the conflict of St. Patrick with Coroticus, king of all

I will not pass over in silence a certain wonderful deed of Patrick’s. The vile action of a certain British king named Coroticus, a wretched cruel tyrant, was reported to him. Now this man was the greatest possible persecutor and slayer of Christians. Patrick, however, endeavored by a letter to recall him to the way of truth.

But [Coroticus] mocked at his salutary warnings. When, however, this was reported to Patrick, he prayed to the Lord and said, “O God, if it be possible, banish this faithless man both from this world and the world to come.”

No long time had elapsed when Coroticus caused a magical spell to be chanted before him, from which he heard that in a brief space he would pass away from the royal throne. And all the men dearest to him broke out into language of the same purport.

He then, when he was in the midst of his court, took on the spot the form of a little fox — a pitiable object — and departed in the presence of his friends; and from that day and that hour, like flowing water that passeth away, he was never seen again.

These few particulars respecting the skill and the powers of St. Patrick did Muirchu-maccu-Machtheni draw up under the direction of Aed, Bishop of the city of Slebte.

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