St. Patrick: Did he exist? What did he look like? Does it matter?

St. Patrick.jpgAt America magazine
, author Jon M. Sweeney examines what we know of the Saint’s life, and what is fanciful–but perhaps just as important.

Both the hard facts and the fanciful legends about Patrick have the power to fascinate and instruct; it is best to strike a balance between the two. Since so many centuries have passed, we will likely never know more about the man who was Patrick than we do today.


Indeed, it is the Patrick of legend that appears in all the art, not the life the saint himself recorded in his writings. And that’s not such a bad thing, not when you recall some of that art. Watch a slide show of some powerful and humorous images of Ireland’s patron saint.

Also, at the magazine’s blog, “In All Things,” Jim McDermott recounts three things you may not know about St. Patrick:

1) He wasn’t Irish.

2) He never banished any snakes–as there never were snakes in Ireland.


3) He was never canonized. Really. Check it out…

ALSO NOTE: For a superb recounting of St. Patrick’s heirs who arrived in America, and what happened after that, check out a review at America of “The Irish Americans: A History,” by the eminent historian of Catholicism in America, Kay Dolan.


Comments read comments(3)
post a comment
Steve T

posted March 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm

According to some book I read (don’t you love those books) which escapes my memory, as the Druids were ready to light a big fire for one of the feasts, Patrick lit his first on another hill. Now that takes some cowabungas. Rather like St. Boniface cutting down the sacred oak tree in front of everyone.

report abuse


posted March 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm

The legend it fun, no matter what Patrick looked like or what he actually did. ‘Tis fun just to celebrate being Irish and the country…which is beautiful, as are the people.

report abuse


posted March 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

… as for Patrick not being canonised, neither were St. Peter, St. Paul, the Blessed Mother, Augustine (both of them), shall I go on? Forget the snakes & shamrock, go read his Confessions and his letter to Coroticus.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.