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Saint Patrick: History and Legend
Return to Main Index St. Patrick

If you can trace your Irish roots back to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who was born about 389 A.D., you can extend the line back two more generations.

He was the son of Calpurnius, the deacon, and his maternal grandfather was Potitus, a priest of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae (Roman Britain). Some say this was perhaps Caerwent, near Chepstow, Monmouthshire, while others think it was possibly the town of Tiburnia near Holyhead in western Wales and yet other sources suggest it was in southern Wales near the Bristol Channel at the mouth of the Severn River.

Wales was part of the Roman Empire at that time, but this area was Celtic country. His original name was Succat — a Celtic name meaning victorious. He took the name of Patrick (Patricius) when he became the second bishop to Ireland in about 432 A.D.

While the date and place of his death are uncertain, tradition says he died ca 461 at Saul, near Downpatrick, County Down, Ireland on 17 March — the day now celebrated as an Irish national festival.

Saint Patrick's Day parades can be traced to 1737 in Boston and to 1762 in New York.

Saint Patrick and the Snakes. Is it History or Legend?

According to Mike McCormack, national historian of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, there never were any snakes in Ireland. He suggests the legend stems from the Viking misinterpretation of Saint Patrick's name. Paud in the old Norse language meant a toad, and when the Vikings heard of a saint called Paud-rig, who had lived in Ireland before their coming, they concluded it meant toad-expeller.

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