The most authoritative modern biography of the patron saint of Ireland, focusing on the historical Patrick and his times.
Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence.
Born late in the fourth century to an aristocratic British family, Patrick’s life was changed forever when he was abducted and taken to Ireland just before his sixteenth birthday. He spent six grueling years there as a slave, but the ordeal turned him from an atheist into a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned safely to Britain to the amazement of his family. But even more amazing to them was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland to spend the rest of his life ministering to the people who had once enslaved him.
Set against the turbulent backdrop of the British Isles during the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, a man whose deep spiritual conviction and devotion helped to transform a country.
Born to an aristocratic British family in the fifth century, Patrick was kidnapped by slave raiders at age 15 and sold to an Irish farmer. After six years of tending sheep he escaped, walked 200 miles to a port city he had seen in a dream, and sailed for home. Years later, as a priest or bishop, he returned to Ireland. Bribing petty kings for safe passage through their rural domains, he preached, baptized and established churches in his beloved adopted land. This information about the saint's life is known from two lengthy letters he wrote late in life, both included in a lively translation by Freeman, a classics professor and author of three previous books about the Celtic world. Dismissing many familiar tales as myths, he relies on archeological discoveries as well as Greek and Roman writers to create a colorful picture of Ireland at the end of the Roman Empire: its kings and headhunting warriors, gods and human sacrifices, belief in the Otherworld. "I am a stranger and an exile living among barbarians and pagans, because God cares for them," Patrick wrote. Besides, time was running out: As Freeman observes, "The gospel had been preached throughout the world and was even then, by own efforts, being spread to the most distant land of all. There was simply no reason for God's judgment to be delayed once the Irish had heard the good news." In the storytelling tradition of popular historian Thomas Cahill, this small book offers a fascinating and believable introduction to Ireland's patron saint.