Publication date: March 1, 2005
Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence.
Born late in the fourth century to an aristocratic British family, Patrick’s life was changed forever when he was abducted and taken to Ireland just before his sixteenth birthday. He spent six grueling years there as a slave, but the ordeal turned him from an atheist into a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned safely to Britain to the amazement of his family. But even more amazing to them was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland to spend the rest of his life ministering to the people who had once enslaved him.
Set against the turbulent backdrop of the British Isles during the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, shorn of legend, a man whose deep spiritual conviction and devotion helped to transform a country.
New York Times:
“It seems that I’ve become something of a celebrity in recent years,” the Romano-British churchman Patricius observed near the end of his long career, perhaps foreseeing the extravagant emerald mantle that would be wrapped about him by the cult of St. Patrick. In this lively and lucid biography, Philip Freeman draws on the saint’s surviving letters, including the eloquent “Confession,” to glean personal details of Patrick’s life and fit them into what is known of early Irish history. “Driving the snakes out of Ireland, entering contests to the death with pagan Druids, using the shamrock as an aid to explaining the Trinity – all these are pious fictions created centuries later by well-meaning monks,” Freeman writes. “The true story of Patrick is far more compelling than the medieval legends.” Patrick was neither Ireland’s first Christian nor the country’s first bishop. Patrick apologized for his lack of learning, for writing Latin “as if it were a foreign language,” but he enriched his faith by bringing to it a race of stern confessors and exuberant artists.