Saint Patrick: Was He Italian
By: Liz Flynn
Celebrated on March 17 each year, Saint Patrick’s Day is an event to honor the life and work of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. People of Irish heritage become very patriotic on this day regardless of where they currently reside and events take place across the globe. While most people are aware of Saint Patrick’s Day, very few know much about the man himself.
A Man of Mystery
Very little is known about the birth, life or death of Saint Patrick. 370 AD is often given as an approximate date of birth, though some argue he was born as late as 432 AD.
It is widely believed that he lived in Britain but was kidnapped by Irish pirates when he was about 16 years old and was taken to Ireland. Although he made his way home, he later returned to Ireland following a vision and began work as a missionary during the second half of the fifth century. He is credited with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland.
Although the exact year of his death is unknown, there is some evidence suggesting that he may have died on March 17 461. It is for this reason that people celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on this date. The earliest recorded celebration of this Patron Saint was in the seventh century.
Are There Two Saint Patricks?
There are many different theories about the life and works of Saint Patrick. One of these is that he was, in fact, two men. By this, the theorists mean that many of the legends and accreditations attached to Saint Patrick may not have related to his life. They believe that they are linked to a man called Palladius who was also a bishop in Ireland at around the same period of history.
Is Saint Patrick Italian?
Another theory that has caused much controversy over the years is that Saint Patrick was actually Italian. Although there is no documentation relating to his birth, it is widely believed that he was born in Scotland or Wales. So, why would people think he was Italian?
One theory for this confusion is that he is referred to in many texts as coming from Roman Britain. During this period of history, Britain was part of the Roman Empire and British residents were given Roman citizenship. In this sense, it is possible to argue that Saint Patrick was indeed Italian. Also, many true Romans were in Britain during the fifth century and had relationships with people of different heritage living in Britain.
However, it is also worth noting that at this time, Italy as a country did not exist. Of course, its geographical location remained the same but it was divided into areas under different rule. Although it is possible that Saint Patrick had descendants originating from the country we now call Italy, it is highly unlikely that this was where he was born.
The Legends of Saint Patrick
There are many legends associated with Saint Patrick, most of which have an element of truth about them but the stories have become exaggerated over the years.
The first is the legend of Saint Patrick banishing all snakes from Ireland. This story came about because there were no snakes in Ireland. However, scientific studies have shown that there were never any snakes in post-glacial Ireland and this was nothing to do with Saint Patrick.
The second legend links Saint Patrick to the Irish using the shamrock as their national symbol. It is said that he was trying to teach the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Using a three-leafed shamrock, he attempted to visually demonstrate how there are three Gods; the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. This legend first appeared in writing in 1726 but is probably much older.
Finally, there is the legend of Saint Patrick growing a living tree from a walking stick. Saint Patrick walked all over Ireland using a walking stick made from ash wood. When he was evangelizing, he would put his stick into the ground. According to folklore, it took so long for the people of Aspatria, meaning ash of Patrick, to understand the message of the dogma that the walking stick grew roots and became a living tree.