We are all aware of St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th of March; to many it has simply become a day where the Irish celebrate their heritage and everybody -regardless of their heritage- enjoys events and consumption of alcohol. But what is the real story behind St. Patrick’s Day and the town of Downpatrick?
In Ireland in the 5th Century there was a Christian bishop and missionary called Patrick. Believed to have been born in Britain in the 4th Century to a wealthy family, including a Deacon for a father and Christian Priest for a grandfather, Patrick is said to have been kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen.
The raiders took the young man to work as a slave in Gaelic Ireland where, during his six years as a shepherd, he found God. Patrick was told by God that a ship was waiting for him at the coast and would take him home, so he escaped to find it. Upon arriving home, the 22 year old went on to become a priest.
Later, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary and began to teach the Holy Trinity to the Pagan Irish using the three-leaved Shamrock (hence the wearing of green and Shamrock on St Patrick’s Day). Legend tells us that Patrick continued to evangelise the northern half of Ireland, converting “thousands” and driving away the Celts. This is where the legend of Patrick driving the “snakes” from Ireland came from (despite Ireland never having had any native snakes).
According to tradition, Patrick died on the 17th of March and was buried at Downpatrick where his grave is marked with a plaque and ancient stone. Around 22 miles from Belfast, this town holds many ancient sites such as the remains of two round houses, Ballynoe Stone Circle and The Saint Patrick Centre, where you can find more information about the celebrated Saint. Two miles outside of Downpatrick stands Saul Church, built in 1932 to commemorate Saint Patrick’s first church in Ireland and nearby, on the crest of Slieve Patrick stands a vast statue of the Saint. Two miles outside Downpatrick, this church was built in 1932, to commemorate Saint Patrick’s first church in Ireland. Close by, on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a huge statue of the saint. Bronze panels illustrate scenes from the life of Ireland’s patron saint. Two miles outside Downpatrick, this church was built in 1932, to commemorate Saint Patrick’s first church in Ireland. Close by, on the crest of Slieve Patrick is a huge statue of the saint. Bronze panels illustrate scenes from the life of Ireland’s patron saint.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world, largely thanks to the coverage of Christian faith around the globe. The largest festivals and parades in Ireland are held in Belfast, Dublin and Downpatrick. In England, the biggest celebrations are held in Birmingham and Liverpool due to the high population of Irish descendants, and for the same reason large celebrations are held in Glasgow and Coatbridge, Scotland.
An internet search for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will bring up pages of opportunities to celebrate.
For information on visiting Downpatrick, visit: