Wednesday 22 March 2017

When was Saint Patrick in Ireland?

We will be dealing today with yet another question regarding the mission of Saint Patrick which remains unresolved - when was he in Ireland? I have a copy of the volume of studies issued in 1932 (see picture above) to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of his coming amongst us, one of many events and publications which celebrated the occasion. But how secure is this date? As Dáibhí Ó Cróinín sees it, the answer is not very:
Patrick gives no dates whatsoever in either his Confession or his Letter. 432 was simply taken over from the chronology of Palladius..stated by Prosper to have been sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine in 431. Later Irish historians (from the seventh century on), puzzled by the subsequent silence in the historical sources concerning Palladius, concluded that the vacuum in the narrative would best be filled by bringing Patrick to Ireland as soon after AD 431 as possible. Hence AD 432 became the 'official' date of his arrival, and the date was entered retrospectively into the Irish annals. Once that date had become enshrined in Irish historical tradition, it was almost impossible to shift it.

Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, 'Saint Patrick', in A .J. Hughes and W. Nolan, eds., Armagh: History and Society - Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin, 2001), 56.

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