We all love a happy ending but happy endings usually start with tough beginnings. And they don’t come much tougher or more poetic than the story of St Patrick; child to slave, shepherd to savior, saint to legend.
It would definitely make an Oscar-winner of a feel-good movie. But the best part of St Patrick’s story is that while it is worth hearing again and again, you can see so much of it yourself.
So before St Patrick – The Movie is made, and Gabriel Byrne wins Best Actor for the lead role, we’re going to tell you how to relive parts of the St Patrick adventure over in Ireland.
Scene 1 – Slemish Mountain, County Antrim
Picture the rugged Welsh coast around 400 AD, and a sixteen-year-old kid (played by Justin Bieber, perhaps?) living a hard, simple life. Out of nowhere a gang of marauding pirates grab him, throw him onto their boat and set sail for Ireland. Before he can blink, he’s isolated and alone atop County Antrim‘s Slemish Mountain tending sheep for a wealthy chieftain. Patrick’s arduous stint on Slemish is one of the experiences that moulds his Christian beliefs so a stroll to the top is in some ways a stroll to the spot where Ireland’s patron Saint began his religious journey – and what a spot it is!
Scene 2 – Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
Eventually, Patrick escapes from his post on Slemish Mountain and catches a boat home from the southeast of Ireland. When he’s at home Patrick is visited by an angel (we’re thinking Saoirse Ronan decked in shiny wings). The angel tells him how greatly he is needed in Ireland and how his powers of conversion are the only way to save the pagan population. Patrick abides and returns to change a land of Druids and pagans into a Christian Country. He soon finds himself scaling another mountain (mountains are kind of a theme in Patrick’s story), this time Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, where he’ll spend 40 days and 40 nights fasting and proving his unshakeable faith.
Croagh Patrick is now Ireland’s most visited pilgrimage site, with many pilgrims grappling the climb barefoot. According to legend it was up here that Patrick performed his banishing of all the snakes from Ireland (we’ll have Industrial Light and Magic do the special effects there). So how did he manage it? Well, there are a few ideas in the pot there. The most common story describes Patrick using his crosier (long intricately carved stick, a little like Gandalf’s staff) to charm the snakes into the sea at Clew Bay. Most historical buffs, though, believe the story to be a parable for Patrick transforming Ireland from pagan heartland to a Christian country. To get both sides of the story, though, you’ll have to ask a snake.
Scene 3 – St Patrick’s Cathedrals, County Armagh
Patrick’s saintly doings are knitted into the fabric of Armagh city so it makes sense then that St Patrick’s Trian Visitor Complex is to be found here. The centre gives us fascinating insights into his life and thoughts as taken from the historical gem that is The Book of Armagh (now housed at Trinity College with its religious sister The Book of Kells).
Armagh City is a hilly little spot and two of these knobbly, green bumps make very scenic settings for the city’s two cathedrals – St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral and St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was on the site of the first, the Hill of Armagh that Patrick set up his flagstone church in Ireland in 445AD. The original building did not stand the tests of time but the cathedrals standing there now are nothing short of spectacular.
Scene 4 – Down Cathedral and Saint Patrick’s Grave, Downpatrick County Down
By this final scene, you’ve seen St Patrick had an eventful life and so it’s fitting that he would be laid to rest in a place as pretty as the site of Down Cathedral.
I’m sure you’ll also agree from seeing all the beautiful settings of our story that we have the Oscar for Best Cinematography in the bag. Ireland’s patron saint was a remarkable person, who inspired an island and a legend that is celebrated even 1600 years after his death. So, when we are wearing green and celebrating around the world on 17 March this year, we’ll know who we’re toasting and why that story is worth toasting. Even if that story is yet to get the movie it deserves.
As you’d expect, there’s tons going on around the island in celebration of St Patrick’s Day. We’ve put together this guide for all the St Patrick’s Festivals and events in Ireland.