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Around the world, St. Patrick is synonymous with Ireland and its people. Born in Britain in the 5th century and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was still a boy, he herded sheep for six years before escaping to Britain, where he undertook intense religions training for many years.
In his 30s, he had a vision wherein the Irish were calling him back to the west of
Ireland, whereupon he returned as a missionary and introduced Christianity to the Celtic
pagans. It is believed that he illustrated the Holy Trinity by using the shamrock, which grows
in abundance in Ireland.
His name appears on churches, schools and community organisations around the world and
while many honour his name, few places can lay a claim to Patrick the way Mayo can.
Having come to Mayo in 441 AD he famously spent the 40 days and nights of Lent fasting
atop Croagh Patrick, a sacred mountain which was an established place of pagan pilgrimage
since 3,000 BC. His time here transformed the pagan pilgrim route into an important
Christian pilgrimage which today draws approximately 100,000 people to it’s conical peak
each year. Though not for the faint-hearted, the climb rewards the stalwart with the most
spectacular vistas imaginable. Whether ascending the mountain for pilgrimage or for sport,
each step connects us with thousands of years of fellow travellers. It was here that St.
Patrick is said to have banished snakes and demons from Ireland by throwing them into
The ancient pilgrim route from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick, a 35 km route, known
as Tóchar Phádraig predates St. Patrick and was built around 350 AD and began at the seat
of the Kings of Connacht and went to Cruachán Aigle as Croagh Patrick was formerly known
as. The route was restored in the 1980s and traverses a variety of terrains and takes place
over the course of a Saturday and Sunday, beginning with Mass in Ballintubber Abbey and
ending at the foot of Croagh Patrick. There are numerous early Christian remains and traces
of monastic sites along the route including Loona More, Kilbrenan Church, Killavally and
Aghagower. A traveller might have stopped to spend a night with the ascetic residents, who
were living out lives of prayer, and maybe work for their food and shelter.
Monuments associated with the saint include St. Patrick's Chair, near Westport. A roughlycircular
neolithic outcrop of rock about 3 metres in diameter, it is adorned with carved
concentric circles, maze-motifs and cup marks. It is here that twice a year, in mid-April &
mid-October, a phenomenon takes place whereby the setting sun gives the impression of
rolling down the hill.
Killala diocese was founded by St. Patrick in 442 or 443. A round tower was later built in the
12th c. And legend has it he lopped off the headland at Downpatrick, isolating a chieftain on
the outcrop for refusing to convert to Christianity. St. Patrick became the patron saint of
Ireland for the pivotal role he played in forming the Christian Irish identity. His feast day is on
the date believed to be the date of his death, March 17th, by religious and non-religious
alike. Celebrated all over Mayo and in towns and cities the world over, spectacular parades
in Dublin, New York and Boston bring people together in the wearing green. St. Patrick’s
Day has come to be a celebration of Ireland itself.