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Daily History

March 17 461 Saint Patrick Dies

On March 17th 461, Saint Patrick, Christian missionary, bishop and apostle of Ireland, died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland. Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from the Confessio, a book he wrote during his last years.

Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a rich Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.

According to the Confessio, in Britain Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter, entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching the Gospel, converting many thousands of Irish and building churches around the country. After 40 years of living in poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.

Since that time, countless legends have grown up around Patrick. Made the patron saint of Ireland, he is said to have baptized hundreds of people on a single day, and to have used a three-leaf clover–the famous shamrock–to describe the Holy Trinity. In art, he is often portrayed trampling on snakes, in accordance with the belief that he drove those reptiles out of Ireland. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade, though, took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage. The party went global in 1995, when the Irish government began a large-scale campaign to market St. Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourism and showcasing Ireland’s many charms to the rest of the world. Today, March 17 is a day of international celebration, as millions of people around the globe put on their best green clothing to drink beer, watch parades and toast the luck of the Irish.


About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner, Writer, Teacher and Business Consultant. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications. Please consider donating, to support our social justice campaign, by clicking on the "Donations Page" button in the top menu.


10 thoughts on “March 17 461 Saint Patrick Dies

  1. Hi,
    Very interesting history about St. Patrick’s Day. I have learned so much more about this celebrated day, Thank you for the info. 🙂

    Posted by magsx2 | March 17, 2012, 05:11
  2. What I understand … was there no snakes on Ireland when St Patrick lived – they where all wiped out by the last ice age 10.000 years ago. It’s true that Ireland don’t have any snakes … UK has! Nice story … to tell. Happy Paddy’s day.

    Posted by viveka | March 17, 2012, 05:58
  3. Interesting that he likely born in Scotland and then enslaved by the Irish marauders. I’ll have to share that with my hubby (with Scottish roots)! Happy Early St. Patrick’s Day!

    Posted by Lotus Mama | March 17, 2012, 11:14
  4. Loved this post. As always you are a good story teller. I enjoy reading your posts. Cheers!

    Posted by Jody Thompson | March 17, 2012, 14:44
  5. Thank you. Married to an Irish lady, call myself a faux’Leary.

    Posted by suptweet | March 17, 2012, 15:10
  6. By name, one may notice that I’m a bit Irish. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!

    Posted by shamusoconner | March 17, 2012, 19:14
  7. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Craig! Enjoy your weekend 🙂

    Posted by adollyciousirony | March 17, 2012, 23:30
  8. I’ve heard briefly of St. Patrick but never in any detail. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | March 19, 2012, 05:03
  9. Reblogged this on ecologicalpoe and commented:
    With a couple of days delay (my bad), I still want to share this article posted by Craig Hill.

    Posted by logeta | March 19, 2012, 21:38

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