Muirchú's text in English (transl. L. Bieler)

Prologus

(1) Considering, my Lord Áed, that many have attempted to write this story coherently according to the traditions of their fathers and of those who were ministers of the Word from the beginning, but that the great difficulties which the telling of the story presents, and the conflicting opinions and many doubts voiced by many a person have prevented them from ever arriving at one undisputed sequence of events,:(2) I might well say that, like boys making their first appearance in the assembly (to quote a familiar saying of ours), I have taken my little talent—a boy's paddle-boat, as it were—out on this deep and perilous sea of sacred narrative, where waves boldly swell to towering heights among rocky reefs in unknown waters, (a sea) on which so far no boat has ventured except the one of my (spiritual) father Cogitosus.(3) However, far from giving the impression that I want to make something big out of something small, I shall (merely) attempt to set forth, bit by bit and step by step, these few of the numerous deeds of holy Patrick, with little knowledge '(of traditional lore)', on uncertain authority, from an unreliable memory, feebly and in poor style, but with the pious affection of holy love, in obedience to the command of your sanctity and authority.

In the name of the king of heaven, the redeemer of this world.

Preface to the Life of Holy Patrick the Confessor.

(1) Time, place, and person are demanded. The name of the place is Caesarea of Cappadocia, which was formerly called Masadra.(2) The time is that of Valentinian and Valens, who reigned seventeen vears, at the age of the world (of) five thousand one hundred and seventy-five (years).(3) From the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ one reckons 436 years to the obit of Patrick.(4) The person: Basil, (which is) melchus in Hebrew, basilius in Greek, rex in Latin. Basilius, that is, a (petty) king; basilica, that is, a royal dwelling; basilicum, that is, royal; basilium (?), that is, kingdom.(5) And he wrote all his works in the Greek language; the priest Rufinus, master of both languages, who had been brought up in Caesarea although he was a Latin, translated his works into Latin.(6) I have found four names of Patrick in a book in the possession of Ultán, bishop of Connor: Holy Magonus, that is: famous; Succet … that is: Patricius (recte: pater ciuium, 'father of citizens'); Cothirthiacus, because he served four households of druids; and one of them bought him, whose name was Milúch moccu Bóin, the druid, and he (Patrick) served him for seven years.(7) Patrick son of <C>alforni(us) had four names: Sochet when he was born, Cothriche when he was a slave, Mauonius when he studied, Patrick when he was consecrated.

  • <1> Where Patrick came from, and how he was taken captive for the first time
  • <2> How he sailed with pagans, and of their predicament in an uninhabited country, and how he obtained food from God for himself and the pagans
  • <3> Of a second captivity, in which he was held by enemies for sixty days
  • <4> Of his reception by his relatives when they recognized him
  • <5> Of his age at the time when, desiring to learn wisdom, he set out for the apostolic see
  • <6> How he found holy Germanus in Gaul and therefore did not go further
  • <7> Of his age when the angel visited him and bade him come hither again
  • <8> Of his return from Gaul, and of the consecration of Palladius, and of the latter's death soon afterwards
  • <9> How, after the death of Palladius, he was consecrated by bishop Amathorex
  • <10> Of the pagan king residing at Tara when holy Patrick came to bring baptism
  • <11> Of his first journey in this island, to buy himself free from Miliucc before snatching others from the devil
  • <12> Of the death of Miliucc, and what Patrick said about Miliucc's offspring
  • <A II 15 How Patrick was visited by an angel every week>
  • <13> Of the counsel of holy Patrick, when the celebration of the first Easter was discussed
  • <14> How Easter was celebrated in this island for the first time
  • <15> Of the pagan feast held at Tara on the same night on which holy Patrick celebrated Easter
  • <16> How king Loíguire went out from Tara to meet Patrick on Easter night
  • <17> How Patrick was summoned to the presence of the king, and how Erc son of Daig believed, and of the death of the druid in that night
  • <18> How the king and his companions got angry with Patrick, and how the punishment of God descended on them, and how Patrick was transformed before the eyes of the pagans
  • <19> How Patrick arrived at Tara on Easter Day, and how Dubthach moccu Lugir believed
  • <20> Of Patrick's conflict with the druid on that day, and of his miraculous deeds
  • <21> Of the conversion of king Loíguire, and what Patrick said concerning his kingdom after him
  • <22> Of holy Patrick's teaching, baptism, and miracles after the example of Christ
  • <23> Of Macc Cuill and his conversion at Patrick's word
  • <24> The story of Dáire and his horse, and his offering of Armagh to Patrick
  • <25> Of the pagans working on Sunday against Patrick's command
  • <26> Of a fertile piece of land turned into a marsh at Patrick's word
  • <27> Of the death of the Saxon maiden Moneisen
  • <28> That holy Patrick saw the heavens open and (beheld the Son of God and His angels
  • <29> Of holy Patrick's stand against Coirthech, king of Ail

These few details concerning the tradition of holy Patrick and his miracles Muirchú moccu Machtheni has written at the request of Áed bishop of the see of Sléibte.

I.1 The birth of St. Patrick and his captivity in Ireland

(1) Patrick, also named Sochet, a Briton by race, was born in Britain. His father was Cualfarnius, a deacon, the son (as Patrick himself says) of a priest, Potitus, who hailed from Bannavem Thaburniae, a place not far from our sea. This place, as I am informed beyond hesitation or doubt, is (now) Ventre (read: Ventia?). His mother's name was Concessa.(2) As a boy of sixteen he was taken captive together with others, was brought to this barbarian island, and was held in servitude by a harsh pagan king.(3) He served him for six years, as is the Hebrew law, with fear of God and trembling (in the words of the Psalmist), with many vigils and prayers—he would pray a hundred times during the day and a hundred times during the night giving gladly to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's, and beginning to fear God and love the almighty Lord; for until then he had not known the true God, but now the spirit in him was fervent.(4) After many hardships which he endured in that country—hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness— having tended sheep, having enjoyed the frequent visits of the angelic Victoricus sent to him by God, having worked miracles, as almost all people know, having received divine messages, of which I shall quote only one or two by way of example: 'It is well that you fast; you shall soon go home to your country' and again: 'See, your ship is ready'—which, however, was not near but about two hundred miles away, where he had never been: (5) after all these things, as we have said, which hardly anyone can enumerate, he left the pagan ruler with his deeds, entrusted himself to the holy company of eternal God in heaven, and, following the divine command, at the age of twenty-three, sailed in the ship that was awaiting him, together with strangers— aliens and pagans, who worshipped many false gods—to Britain.

I.2

(1) Having been at sea with (these) wicked people for three days and as many nights, rather like Jonas, he afterwards tramped for twenty-eight days through desert, as did Moses, although in a different sense. Compelled by the pagans, who grumbled, as the Jews had done, because they were worn out almost to the point of exhaustion by hunger and thirst, challenged by the captain and asked to pray to his god for them to save them from death, moved by their plight, pitying the crowd, suffering (with them) in spirit, crowned with merit, glorified by God, he secured for them plenty to eat with the help of God, (who) sent him a herd of pigs as he had sent (the Jews) a flight of quails.(2) They also came across wild honey, as did John in his time, but—as was befitting the wicked pagans—they got pork meat instead of locusts. He [holy Patrick], however, tasted none of that food—for it had been offered in sacrifice—and he remained unscathed, feeling neither hunger nor thirst. (3) In that same night Satan attacked him vigorously in his sleep, as if burying him under huge rocks and crushing his limbs, but he invoked Elijah twice and at once the sun rose for him and its brightness dispelled all the shadows of darkness, and his strength was restored to him.

I.3

(1) And again, after many years, he was taken captive by strangers. There on the first night he was granted to hear a divine message saying to him: 'Two months you shall be with them', that is, with your enemies.(2) And so it happened. On the sixtieth day the Lord rescued him from their hands, and provided for him and for his companions food and fire and dry weather every day until on the tenth day they met people.

I.4

And again, after a few years, he stayed, as before, happily in his own country with his relatives, who received him as their son and urged him never again to go away from them after so many trials and hardships. He, however, did not consent, and there he saw many visions.

I.5

(1) At that time he was already approaching the age of thirty, reaching, according to the Apostle, perfect manhood, the full maturity of the age of Christ.(2) He set out to visit and honour the apostolic see, the head, that is, of all the churches in the whole world, in order to learn and understand and practise divine wisdom and the holy mysteries to which God had called him, and in order to preach and bring divine grace to the peoples beyond the Empire, converting them to belief in Christ.

I.6

(1) So he crossed the sea to the south of Britain and began to travel through Gaul, with the ultimate goal, as was his ardent wish, to cross the Alps (and to proceed to Rome). But on his way he found a very holy man of approved faith and doctrine, bishop of the city of Auxerre, leader of almost all Gaul, the great lord Germanus.(2) With him he stayed for a considerable time, as Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and there, in perfect subjection, patience, and obedience, he learned, loved, and practised knowledge, wisdom, chastity, and every good disposition of spirit and soul, as was his heart's desire, with great fear and love of God, in goodness and simplicity of heart, a virgin in body and in spirit.

I.7

After he had spent a long time there—some say forty years, others say thirty—his faithful friend of old, named Victoricus, who had foretold him everything as it was to happen when he was a slave in Ireland, came to him frequently in visions and told him the time had come for him to go out and fish with the net of the Gospel the wild and alien people to whom God had sent him as a teacher; and there it was said to him in a vision: 'The sons and daughters of the Wood of Fochloth are calling you', etc.

I.8

(1) Now that the right moment had come he set out, with God's help for the work for which he had prepared himself all that time, that is, the work of the Gospel. And Germanus sent with him a senior, the priest Segitius, so as to have as companion a witness, because until then he had not yet been consecrated a bishop by the holy lord Germanus.(2) They knew for certain that Palladius, archdeacon of Pope Celestine, the bishop of Rome, who was then occupying the apostolic see as the forty-fifth successor of St. Peter the apostle, had been consecrated and sent to this island in the cold north in order to convert it.(3) But he was prevented from doing so (by the fact that) nobody can receive anything from the earth unless it be given him from heaven. Neither were these wild and harsh men inclined to accept his teaching nor did he himself wish to spend a long time in a foreign country, but (decided to) return to him who had sent him. On his way back from here, having crossed the first sea and begun his journey by land, he ended his life in the territory of the Britons.

I.9

(1) On receiving the news of the death in Britain of holy Palladius—the disciples of Palladius, Augustine, Benedict, and others, on their way home had reported his decease at Ebmoria—Patrick and those who were with him made a detour and went to an admirable man and great bishop named Amathorex, who was living in a place not far away,(2) and there holy Patrick, knowing what was to happen to him, had the episcopal grade conferred on him by the holy bishop Amathorex;(3) also Auxilius, Iserninus and others (were ordained to) lower grades on the same day as holy Patrick was consecrated.(4) They received blessings, performed everything according to custom, and—as if it were done specially, and aptly so, for Patrick—they sang the verse of the Psalmist: 'Thou art a priest for ever in the succession of Melchisedech.' The venerable traveller, then, in the name of the Holy Trinity, boarded a ship that was ready for him, arrived in Britain, and then, avoiding all delay that was not required by the ordinary conditions of travel—for nobody seeks the Lord with sloth—speedily and with a favourable wind sailed across our sea.

I.10

(1) In the days when this took place there was in those parts a great king, a fierce pagan, an emperor of non-Romans, with his royal seat at Tara, which was then the capital of the realm of the Irish, by name Loíguire son of Níall, a scion of the family that held the kingship of almost the entire island.(2) He had around him sages and druids, fortune-tellers and sorcerers, and the inventors of every evil craft, who, according to the custom of paganism and idolatry, were able to know and foresee everything before it happened.(3) There were two of these whom he preferred above all the others, whose names are these: Lothroch, also called Lochru, and Lucet Máel, also called Ronal;(4) and these two, by their magical art, prophesied frequently that a foreign way of life was about to come to them, a kingdom, as it were, with an unheard-of and burdensome teaching, brought from afar over the seas, enjoined by few, received by many; it would be honoured by all, would overthrow kingdoms, kill the kings who offered resistance, seduce the crowds, destroy all their gods, banish all the works of their craft, and reign for ever.(5) They also described the man who was to bring this way of life and to win them for it, and they prophesied about him in the following words, in the form, as it were, of a poem, which these men often recited, and especially during the two or three years immediately before the coming of Patrick.(6) These are the words of the poem— not very intelligible, owing to the peculiarity of their language: "

There shall arrive Shaven-head,
with his stick bent in the head,
from his house with a hole in its head
he will chant impiety
from his table in the front of his house;
all his people will answer 'Be it thus, be it thus'.

".(7) In our own language all this can be expressed more clearly. 'When all this happens' (the druids would say) 'our kingdom, which is a pagan one, will fall.' And so it happened afterwards: when Patrick came the worship of idols was abolished and the catholic Christian faith spread over our whole country. Enough of this; let us return to our subject.

 

I.11

(1) At the end and termination of the holy voyage the boat of the holy man, laden with marvels from across the sea and with spiritual treasures, reached a convenient port in the district of Cúalu, a well-known harbour of ours called Inber Dee.(2) There it seemed to him that nothing was more fitting than first of all to redeem himself. Hence he made for the northern parts and went to sec that pagan, Miliucc, whose slave he once had been, bringing him a double price to buy himself free from slavery, an earthly and a heavenly one, to free from captivity the man whom he had formerly served as a captive. He turned the bow of his boat to an island east of the coast, which to the present day is named after him. (3) Then, leaving Brega and the territory of Conaille and that of the Ulaid on his left side, he finally entered the inlet of Bréne.(4) He and those who were with him in the boat landed at Inber Sláne, hid their small craft, and went a short distance inland in order to rest there. They were found by the swineherd of a man who was good by nature, although a pagan, whose name was Díchu. He lived in the place where there is now the barn named after Patrick.(5) The swineherd, thinking they were thieves or robbers, went to tell his master Díchu (about them), and led him upon them unawares.(6) Díchu had come with intent to kill them, but when he saw the face of holy Patrick the Lord changed his mind for the better, and Patrick preached the faith to him, and there and then he believed Patrick—the first man to do so—and the holy man stayed with him for a few days.(7) However, as he was anxious to go without delay to visit the said man, Miliucc, and bring him the price (of his freedom) and in this way, after all, to convert him to the faith of Christ, he left his boat with Díchu and set out on his way by land to the territory of the Cruithni until he came to Slíab Miss, from which mountain, a long time ago, when he was serving there as a captive, he had seen the angel Victoricus leave the imprint of his swift step on the rock of another mountain, and ascend into heaven before his eyes.

I.12

(1) When Miliucc heard that his slave was about to come and see him, in order to make him accept, forcibly as it were, a way of life against his will at the end of his days, for fear he might be subject to his slave and the latter might become his master, the devil put it into his mind to seek death of his own free will in fire. He gathered all his wealth together in the palace where until then he had lived as king, and burnt himself along with it.(2) Holy Patrick, standing in the said place on the right flank of Slíab Miss, from which, on his return full of grace, he had the first view of the district where he had lived as a slave —to the present day a cross stands there to mark (the spot of) his first view of that district—he at once saw, right under his eyes, the pyre of the king.(3) Stunned by this sight, (he stood there) for two or three hours without uttering a word, sighing and mourning and weeping, and then spoke these words: 'I know not, God knows, this man and king, who chose to burn himself in fire rather than believe at the end of his life and serve eternal God, I know not, God knows, none of his sons shall sit on his throne as king of his kingdom in generations to come; what is more, his line shall be subordinate for ever.'(4) Having said this, he prayed, armed himself with the sign of the cross, turned round at once and went back to the territory of the Ulaid by the same way that he had come. He returned to Mag Inis, to Díchu, stayed there for many days and travelled around the whole plain. He favoured and loved the district, and the faith began to spread there.

II.15

(1) Let our account return to what has been said above. An angel used to come to him regularly on the seventh day of every week, and as one man talks to another so Patrick enjoyed the angel's conversation.(2) Even when, at the age of sixteen, Patrick had fallen into captivity and spent six years in servitude, the angel came thirty times to meet him, and he enjoyed the angel's counsels and their conversations before he went from Ireland to the Latins. He used to pray a hundred times during the day, and a hundred times during the night..(3) One day, when tending swine, he lost them and the angel came to him and showed him where the swine were. One day after the same angel had talked to him about many things he placed his foot on the rock of Scirit opposite Slíab and ascended in his presence, and the footprint of the angel can be seen in the rock to the present day. (4) And it is that place where (the angel) had spoken with him thirty times, and that place is a place of prayer, and there the faithful obtain most happily the things for which they pray.

I.13

(1) In those days Easter was approaching, the first Easter to be offered to God in the Egypt of this our island as it once was (offered), as we read in Genesis, in Gessen; and they took counsel where they should celebrate this first Easter among the pagans to whom God had sent him, (2) and after many proposals had been made in this matter, at last holy Patrick, divinely inspired, decided that this great feast of the Lord, being the principal feast of all, should be celebrated in the great plain of Brega, because it was there that there was the greatest kingdom among these tribes, the head of all paganism and idolatry; (3) there, in the words of the Psalmist, he would smash the head of the dragon, and for the first time an irresistible wedge would be driven into the head of all idolatry with the hammer of brave action joined to faith by the spiritual hands of holy Patrick and his companions. And so it was done.

I.14

(1) They set their ship afloat, left that good man, Díchu, behind in perfect faith and peace, sailed from Mag Inis—with the coast now, in the fullness of ministry, on their right hand, having had it quite aptly on their left hand before—and after a good and calm voyage they landed at Inber Colpdi. (2) There they left their boat and went by foot to that great plain. In the evening they at last arrived at the burial place of (i.e. constructed by) the men of Fíacc, which, as stories tell us, the men (that is, the servants) of Fíacc had dug—says Ferchertne, who was one of the nine druid-prophets of Brega. (3) There they pitched their tent, and then Patrick with his companions duly offered Easter to God in heaven with great spiritual devotion, a sacrifice of praise, as the prophet says.

I.15

(1) It so happened in that year that a feast of pagan worship was being held, which the pagans used to celebrate with many incantations and magic rites and other superstitious acts of idolatry. (2) There assembled the kings, satraps, leaders, princes, and the nobles of the people; furthermore, the druids, the fortune-tellers, and the inventors and teachers of every craft and every skill were also summoned to king Loíguire at Tara, their Babylon, as they had been summoned at one time to Nabuchodonosor, and they held and celebrated their pagan feast on the same night on which holy Patrick celebrated Easter. (3) They also had a custom, which was announced to all publicly, that whosoever, in any district, whether far or near, should have lit a fire on that night before it was lit in the king's house, that is, in the palace of Tara, would have forfeited his life. (4) Holy Patrick, then, celebrating Holy Easter, kindled the divine fire with its bright light and blessed it, and it shone in the night and was seen by almost all the people who lived in the plain. (5) Thus the fire from his tent happened to be seen at Tara, and as they saw it they all gazed at it and wondered. And the king called together the elders and said to them: 'Who is the man who has dared to do such a wicked thing in my kingdom? He shall die.' They all replied that they did not know who had done it, but the druids answered: 'King, may you life for ever! Unless this fire which we see, and which has been lit on this night before the (fire) was lit in your house, is extinguished on this same night on which it has been lit, it will never be extinguished at all; (6) it will even rise above all the fires of our customs, and he who has kindled it and the kingdom that has been brought upon us by him who has kindled it on this night will overpower us all and you, and will seduce all the people of your kingdom, and all kingdoms will yield to it, and it will spread over the whole country and will reign in all eternity.'

I.16

(1) When the king heard this he was greatly alarmed, as once was Herod, and all Tara (was alarmed) with him. And the king answered and said: 'It will not be so, but we shall go and see what is going on, and restrain and kill those who are doing such a wicked thing against our kingdom.' (2) Loíguire ordered thrice nine chariots to be equipped, according to the tradition which they had received from their gods, took with him the two druids who were most powerful of all in a contest, that is, Lucet Máel and Lochru, and towards the end of that night went out from Tara to the burial place of the men of Fíacc; they turned the faces of the men and horses to the left, as was befitting them.(3) As they went along, the druids said to the king: 'King, do not yourself go to the place where the fire is, lest perhaps you afterwards adore him who lit it, but stay outside, and that man will be summoned to your presence so that he may adore you and you be his lord, and we and that man shall dispute before you, o King, and in this way you will test us.' The king answered and said: 'You have devised sound advice; I shall do as you have said.'. And they came to the above-mentioned place and dismounted from their horses; and they did not enter the perimeter of the place that was illumined by the light, but sat down beside it.

I.17

(1) And holy Patrick was summoned to the presence of the king outside the illumined place, and the druids said to their people: 'Let us not rise when he comes, for whosoever rises at his coming will believe afterwards and reverence him.' (2) When Patrick rose and saw the great number of their chariots and horses, he fittingly recited with his lips and his heart the verse of the Psalmist: 'Let others (come) on chariots and on horseback, we shall go our way in the name of the Lord our God', and went to them. (3) They did not rise at his coming; there was only one man who, with the help of the Lord, refused to obey the command of the druids, that is Ercc, son of Daig, whose relics are now worshipped in the city called Slane. He stood up, and Patrick blessed him, and he believed in the eternal God. (4) Then they began their dispute, and one of the druids named Lochru provoked the holy man and dared to revile the catholic faith with haughty words. (5) Holy Patrick looked at him as he uttered such words and, as Peter had said concerning Simon, so with power and with a loud voice he confidently said to the Lord: 'O Lord, who art all-powerful and in whose power is everything, who hast sent me here, may this impious man, who blasphemes thy name, now be cast out and quickly perish.' (6) And at these words the druid was lifted up into the air and fell down again; he hit his brain against a stone, and was smashed to pieces, and died in their presence, and the pagans stood in fear.

I.18

(1) The king with his companions was furious with Patrick over this incident and he tried to kill him and said: 'Lay hands on this fellow who is about to ruin us.' (2) When holy Patrick saw that the pagans were on the point of attacking him he rose and said with a loud voice: 'May God bestir Himself, and may His enemies be routed and His illwishers flee before His face.' (3) And at once darkness set in, and there was a dreadful uproar and the infidels fought among themselves, one rising up against the other, and there was a big earthquake which caused the axles of their chariots to collide with each other, and drove them violently forward so that chariots and horses rushed headlong over the plain until, in the end, a few of them escaped barely alive to Mons Monduirn, (4) and by this disaster seven times seven men perished through the curse of Patrick before the eyes of the king as a punishment for his words, until there remained only he himself and three other survivors, that is, he and his queen, and two of the Irish, and they were in great fear. (5) And the queen went to Patrick and said to him: 'O just and powerful man, do not bring death upon the king! For the king will come and bend his knees and adore your lord.' (6) And the king came, impelled by fear, and bent his knees before the holy man, and pretended to do him reverence though he did not mean it; and after they had parted and the king had gone a short distance away, he called holy Patrick with false words, wishing to kill him by any means. (7) Patrick, however, knew the wicked thoughts of the wicked king. He blessed his companions, eight men with a boy, in the name of Jesus Christ, and started on his way to the king, and the king counted them as they went along, and suddenly they disappeared from the king's eyes; (8) instead, the pagans merely saw eight deer with a fawn going, as it were, into the wilds. And king Loíguire, sad, frightened, and in great shame, went back to Tara at dawn with the few who had escaped.

I.19

(1) On the following day, that is Easter Day, when the kings and princes and druids were at table with Loíguire—for this was their greatest feast day—eating and drinking wine in the palace of Tara, some of them talking, and others thinking about the things that had happened, (2) holy Patrick with only five companions entered through closed doors, as we read about Christ, in order to vindicate and to preach the holy faith at Tara before all the nations. (3) As he entered the banquet hall of Tara, none of them all rose in order to welcome him, except one man only, Dubthach maccu Lugir, an excellent poet. With him was then in that place a young poet named Fíacc, who afterwards became a renowned bishop, whose relics are worshipped in Sléibte. (4) This Dubthach, as I have said, alone among the pagans rose in honour of holy Patrick, and the holy man blessed him, and he was the first on that day to believe in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. (5) When the pagans had perceived Patrick they asked him to eat with them in order to put him to the test as I shall relate. He, however, knowing what was to come, did not refuse to eat.

I.20

(1) Now, while they were all eating, the druid Lucet Máel, who had taken part in the conflict on the previous night, was anxious even on that day, now that his colleague had perished, to fight against holy Patrick, and as a start he put a drop (of poison) from his cup into the goblet of Patrick while the others looked on in order to find out what (Patrick) would do. (2) When holy Patrick saw the kind of test to which he was being subjected, he blessed his goblet in the sight of all and the liquor froze like ice; then he turned his goblet upside down, and only the drop which the druid had added fell out. And he blessed the goblet again: the liquor resumed its natural state, and they all were greatly astonished.(3) And after a short while the druid said: 'Let us work miracles in this vast plain,' and Patrick replied, saying: 'What sort of miracles?', and the druid said: 'Let us bring snow over the land,' and Patrick said: 'I do not want to bring about anything against God's will,' and the druid said: 'I shall bring it about in the sight of all.' (4) Then, uttering some spells, he brought snow, reaching up as far as (a man's) belt, over the entire plain, and all saw this and were astonished. And the holy man said: 'All right, we see this. Remove it now.' And (the druid) said: 'Until this hour tomorrow I cannot remove it.' And the holy man said: 'You can do evil and cannot do good. Not so I.' (5) Then he blessed the plain all around, and in no time, without rain or mist or wind, the snow vanished, and the crowds cheered and were greatly astonished and touched in their hearts. (6) And a little later the druid, through the invocation of demons, brought a thick fog over the land as a sign (i.e. miracle), and the people muttered angrily. And the holy man said: 'Remove the fog;' but again the other was not able to do so. (7) The holy man, however, prayed, blessed (the place), and the fog was dispelled at once and the sun shone again and all the people cheered and gave thanks. (8) After this contest between the druid and Patrick in the king's presence the king said to them: 'Cast your books into the water, and he whose books remain unharmed, him we shall adore.' Patrick answered: 'I will do so,' and the druid said: 'I do not want to undergo a test of water with him; for water is a god of his.' He had heard, no doubt, that Patrick baptized with water. (9) And the king replied: 'Agree (to ordeal) by fire.' And Patrick said: 'I am ready to do so.' But the druid did not want to and said: 'This man worships every second year in turn now water now fire as his god.' (10) And the holy man said: 'Not so; but you yourself, and one of the boys in my service together with you shall go into a divided and closed house, and you shall wear my garment and my boy shall wear yours, and so you two together shall be set on fire and be judged in the presence of the Highest.' (11) And this plan was accepted, and a house was built for them, half of green wood and half of dry wood, and the druid was placed in the green part of the house and one of holy Patrick's boys, Benineus (= Benignus) by name, wearing the druid's garb, in its dry part; then the house was closed from outside and in the presence of the whole crowd was set on fire. (12) And in that hour it so happened through the prayer of Patrick that the flame of the fire consumed the druid together with the green half of the house, and nothing was left intact except the chasuble of holy Patrick, which the fire did not touch. (13) On the other hand, happy Benineus, and the dry half of the house, experienced what has been said of the three young men: the fire did not even touch him, and brought him neither pain nor discomfort; only the garb of the druid, which he had donned, was burnt in accordance with God's will. (14) And the king's anger was aroused against Patrick because of the death of his druid, and he was on the point of attacking him, wishing to take his life; but God held him back. For at the prayer and the word of Patrick the wrath of God descended upon the impious people, and many of them died. (15) And holy Patrick said to the king: 'If you do not believe now you shall die at once, for the wrath of God has come down upon your head.' And the king was in great fear, his heart trembling, and so was his entire city.

I.21

(1) King Loiguire summoned his elders and his whole council and said to them:'It is better for me to believe than to die', and having held counsel, acting on the advice of his followers, he believed on that day and became converted to the Lord the eternal God, and many others believed on that occasion. (2) And holy Patrick said to the king: 'Since you have resisted my teaching and been offensive to me, the days of your own reign shall run on, but none of your offspring shall ever be king.'

I.22

Holy Patrick, however, following the command of the Lord Jesus, left Tara, going forth and teaching all peoples and baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with him and confirming his word by the miracles which followed.

I.27

(1) I shall therefore attempt, the Lord willing, to relate a few of the many miracles of Patrick, the bishop of all Ireland, if I may say so, and her illustrious teacher. (2) At a time, then, when all Britain was still frozen in the cold of unbelief, the illustrious daughter of some king—her name was Monesan—was full of the Holy Spirit. Assisted by Him, although many desired to many her, she accepted no proposal. Not even when floods of water were frequently poured over her could she be forced to do what she did not want and what was less valuable.(3) When, in between beatings and soakings with water, she was insistently urged (to do so) she kept asking her mother and her nurse whether they knew the maker of the wheel by which the world is illumined, and when she received the answer that the maker of the sun was he whose throne was in heaven, she, frequently urged to enter into the bond of marriage, said, enlightened by the luminous counsel of the Holy Spirit: 'I shall never do that.' (4) For through nature she searched the maker of all that is created, following in this the example of Abraham the patriarch. (5) Her parents, deliberating in their great sorrow, on hearing that Patrick, a just man, was visited by eternal God every seventh day, went with their daughter to Ireland and after such a great effort met Patrick. He asked his visitors why they had come. (6) Then the travellers told him in excited tones: 'The ardent desire of our daughter to see God has forced us to come to you.'(7) He then, full of the Holy Spirit, raised his voice and said to her: 'Do you believe in God?' And she said: 'I do believe.' Then he bathed her in the bath of the Holy Spirit and the water. (8) Immediately afterwards she fell to the ground and gave up her spirit into the hands of the angels. She was buried on the spot where she died. (9) Then Patrick prophesied that after twenty years her body would be conveyed to a near-by chapel with great ceremony. This was done afterwards, and the relics of the maiden from across the sea are there an object of worship to the present day.

I.29

(1) I shall not pass over in silence a miraculous deed of Patrick's. News had been brought to him of a wicked act by a certain British king named Corictic, an ill-natured and cruel ruler.(2) He had no equal as a persecutor and murderer of Christians. Patrick tried to call him back to the way of truth by a letter, but he scorned his salutary exhortations. (3) When this was reported to Patrick, he prayed to the Lord and said: 'My God, if it is possible, expel this godless man from this world and from the next.'(4) Not much time had elapsed after this when (Corictic) heard somebody recite a poem saying that he should abandon his royal seat, and all the men who were dearest to him chimed in.Suddenly before their eyes, in the middle of a public place, he was ignomiously changed into a fox, went off, and since that day and hour, like water that flows away, was never seen again.

I.28

(1) I shall briefly relate a miracle of the godly and apostolic man Patrick, of whom we are speaking, (something) that miraculously happened to him when he was still in the flesh; this, as far as I know, has been written about him and Stephen only. (2) At one time when he was in his usual place to pray during the night, he beheld the wonders of heaven, familiar to him, and wishing to test his beloved and faithful holy boy, he said to him: 'Please, tell me, my son, whether you experience what I experience.' (3) Then the small boy, named Benignus, said without hesitation: 'I know already what you are experiencing. For I see heaven open and behold the Son of God and His angels.' Then Patrick said: 'I see now that you are worthy to be my successor.''.(4) At once they walked at a quick pace to his usual place of prayer. As they were praying in the middle of the river bed the boy said: 'I can stand the cold water no longer.' For the water was too cold for him. (5) Then Patrick told him to go from the upper river down to the lower. There too, however, he was not able to stay very long because, he confessed, he felt the water to be too hot. Unable to stay long in that place, he then went on land.

I.23

(1) There was a man in the territory of the Ulaid in Patrick's time, Macc Cuill moccu Greccae. He was a fierce and wicked ruler, so much so that he was (sur)named Cyclops. (2) His thoughts were evil, his words haughty, his deeds wicked, his spirit bitter, his temper angry, his body given to sin, his mind cruel, his life pagan, his conscience vain. (3) In his godlessness he had sunk so low that one day, as he sat in a wild place high up in the hills, in Druim moccu Echach, where this bandit daily exercised his harsh rule, wearing emblems of the most wicked cruelty and cruelly killing wayfarers as they passed by, (4) he saw Patrick coming along, shining with the bright light of faith and, as it were, the wondrous diadem of heavenly glory, making his way towards his destination with unshaken confidence in his teaching. (Macc Cuill) thought of killing him and said to his followers: (5) 'Look, here comes the man who seduces and perverts people, who is in the habit of performing tricks in order to deceive people and to seduce many. Let us go and set a trap for him to find out whether that god in whom he glories has any power.' (6) So they set a trap for the holy man in this way: They made one of their company, who was in perfect health, lie down in their midst, covered with a cloak and pretending to be mortally ill, with the intention of testing the holy man by this deceit. They called the holy man a seducer, his miracles tricks, and his prayers black magic. (7) Accordingly, as Patrick and his disciples approached, the pagans said to him: 'Look, one of us has just fallen ill; come and sing over him some incantations of your sect, perhaps he may be healed.' (8) Holy Patrick, however, knowing all their ruses and pretences, said firmly and intrepidly: 'It would not be strange if he had been ill', and when the companions of the man who had feigned illness uncovered his face they found him dead.(9) Dumbfounded and astonished by such a miracle, the pagans said to themselves: 'This is truly a man of God; we have done wrong in seeking to trap him.'(10) Holy Patrick, however, turned to Macc Cuill and said: 'Why did you want to trap me?' and the cruel tyrant replied: 'I am sorry for what I have done. I shall do whatever you tell me to do, and now I give myself into the power of the high god whom you preach.'(11) And holy Patrick said: 'Believe, then, in the Lord my God Jesus, and confess your sins, and receive baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.' And he was converted in that hour, believed in eternal God, and was baptized. And after this Macc Cuill said further: (12) 'I confess to you, my holy lord Patrick, that I had planned to kill you. Pass judgement, therefore, and state how much is due for such a great and wicked crime.' (13) And Patrick said: 'I cannot judge, but God will judge. You now go down to the seashore unarmed, and leave this part of Ireland without delay, (14) taking none of your property with you except one paltry short garment which just barely covers your body, neither eating nor drinking anything that grows in this island, with this emblem of your sin on your head, (15) and when you have come to the sea, fetter your feet with an iron chain, throw its key into the sea, board a small boat made of a single hide, without rudder or oar, and be ready to go wherever the wind and the sea shall carry you; and on whatever shore divine Providence may land you, dwell there and practise the divine commandments.'' (16) And Macc Cuill said: 'I will do as you have told me. But what shall we do about the dead man?' And Patrick said: 'He shall live and rise from death without pain.' And Patrick raised him in that hour, and he came to life again in good health. (17) And Macc Cuill left without saying a word and went to the sea south of Mag Inis, with the confidence of unshaken faith. At the shore he fettered himself and threw the key into the sea as he had been told to do, (18) and put to sea in a small boat, and the north wind blew in his rear and took him southward and landed him at an island called Euonia. (19) There he found two admirable men, shining lights in faith and doctrine, who had been the first to preach the word of God and baptism in Euonia, and by their teaching the inhabitants of that island had been converted to the catholic faith. The names of the two men are Conindrus and Rumilus. (20) When they saw the man in his single garment they were surprised and took pity on him; they lifted him from the sea and received him hospitably. (21) Having found spiritual fathers in the place given him by God, he trained his body and soul according to their rule, and spent all the (remaining) time of his life there with those two holy bishops until he became their successor in the episcopate. This is Macc Cuill, bishop of Mane and prelate of Arde Huimnonn (the Isle of Man).

I.25

(1) Once on a Sunday holy Patrick, resting above the seashore beside a marsh which is a short distance to the north of Druimm Bó, heard a loud noise of pagans working on Sunday and digging the moat of a rath.(2) Patrick sent for them and forbade them to work on Sunday. They, however, did not heed the words of the holy man, but even laughed at him and jeered. (3) And holy Patrick said: 'Mudebroth, in spite of all your labour you shall achieve nothing.' And so it happened. The following night there came a heavy storm and stirred up the sea, and the storm destroyed all that the pagans had done, as the man of God had said.

I.24

(1) There was a wealthy and honoured man in the territory of Airther, whose name was Dáire. Holy Patrick asked him to give him a place wherein to worship, and the wealthy man said to the holy man: 'Which place do you want?' (2) 'I am asking', the holy man said,'to be given that hill which is called Druim(m) Sailech, and that I may settle there.' He, however, did not want to give the holy man that lofty place, but gave him another place, lower down, where there is now the Burial-Ground of the Martyrs beside Armagh, and there holy Patrick lived with his followers. (3) After some time a groom of Dáire's came with his master's horse to let it graze in the meadow of the Christians, and Patrick was offended by the release of the horse in his place, and said: 'Dáire has behaved foolishly in sending brute animals to disturb the small place which he has given to God.' (4) The groom, however, listened as little as if he were deaf, and like one who is dumb he did not open his mouth to speak, but left the horse there over night and went away.(5) Next day in the morning the groom came to look after the horse and by that time found it dead. He went home sadly and said to his master: 'Look, that Christian has killed your horse because it displeased him that his place was disturbed', and Dáire said: 'He also shall be killed. Go ye now and kill him.'(6) The very moment his men went out sudden death struck Dáire, and his wife said: 'This death is because of the Christian. Let somebody go at once and bring us his favours, and you will be well; and let those who have gone out to kill the Christian be stopped and told to return.' (7) Two men, then, went out and said to him, concealing from him what had actually happened: 'Look, Dáire has fallen ill. Give us something to bring him by which he may be healed.' (8) Holy Patrick, however, knowing what had happened, said: 'Is that so?' blessed water and gave it to them, saying: 'Sprinkle some of this water over your horse and take it with you.' (9) And they did so and the horse revived, and they took it away with them, and when the holy water was sprinkled over Dáire he was healed.(10) After this Dáire went out to honour holy Patrick, bringing with him a marvellous bronze cauldron from overseas which held three measures, and Dáire said to the holy man: 'Look, this cauldron shall be yours.' And Patrick said: 'Grazacham.' (11) When Dáire came home he said: 'This man is a fool, if he has nothing better to say for a marvellous bronze cauldron of three measures but only 'Grazacham''; and then Dáire said to his servants: 'Go and bring us our bronze vessel back.' (12) They went out and told Patrick: 'We are to take the bronze vessel back.' None the less on that occasion also holy Patrick said: 'Grazacham, take it', and they took it away.(13) And Dáire asked his companions and said: 'What did the Christian say when you took the bronze vessel back?' and they replied: 'He said 'Grazacham'.' And (Dáire) answered and said: ''Grazacham' for the gift, 'Grazacham' for its withdrawal. His saying is such a good one; with these 'Grazachams' his bronze vessel shall be brought to him again.'(14) And Dáire this time came in person and brought Patrick the bronze vessel and said to him: 'This vessel shall be yours. For you are a steadfast man whom nothing can change. Besides, I give you now that piece of land for which you once asked so far as it is mine; dwell there.' This is the city which is now called Armagh.(15) And they went out together, holy Patrick and Dáire, to inspect the marvellous and pleasing gift that he had offered, and they climbed to the top of that hill and found there a doe with its little fawn lying in the place where there is now the altar of the northern church at Armagh,(16) and the companions of Patrick wanted to catch the fawn and kill it, but the holy man objected and forbade them to do so. He even took up the fawn himself and carried it on his shoulders, and the doe followed him like a meek and loving lamb until he let the fawn go in another glen, to the north of Armagh, where, as knowledgeable men tell us, there persist to the present day signs of his miraculous power.

I.26

(1) Knowledgeable men tell us that there lived in Mag Inis a hard and greedy man, who in his folly pushed his avarice so far that, when one day the two oxen drawing Patrick's cart after their holy toil rested and grazed in his field, this vain man brutally and forcibly drove them away in the presence of holy Patrick.(2) Holy Patrick grew angry with him and said with a curse: 'Mudebrod, you have done wrong. May this your field here never again yield profit either to you or to your descendants; from now on it will be useless.' (3) And so it happened. On the same day a vast flood of the sea submerged and covered the whole field and, as the prophet says, fertile land was turned into marsh because of the wickedness of those who dwelled there. It has remained sandy and barren from the day when holy Patrick cursed it to the present day.

  • <II 1>Of Patrick's assiduity in prayer
  • <2>How a dead man spoke to him
  • <3>How the Lord's night was illumined so that the horses were found
  • <4>How an angel prevented him from choosing to die in Armagh
  • <5>Of the burning bush in which there was an angel
  • <6>Of Patrick's four petitions
  • <7>Of the day of his death, and of his lifespan of thirty (sic) years
  • <8>How nightfall was suspended, and of the twelve nights without darkness
  • <9 Of the sacrament given (him) by bishop Tassach>.
  • <10>Of the first night's vigil at Patrick's body, which was performed by angels
  • <11>How the angel gave advice concerning his burial
  • <12>How fire burst forth from his tomb
  • <13>How an inlet of the sea rose to prevent fighting for his body
  • <14>De felici seductione populorum.
II.1

Concerning his assiduity in prayer, we shall attempt to write down a few of many things we might tell. He used to recite daily all the psalms and hymns and the Revelation of John and all the spiritual canticles of the Scriptures, whether he was staying in one place or travelling. He also signed himself with the victorious sign of the cross a hundred times at every hour of day and night, and wherever he saw a cross he would descend from his chariot and go out of his way to pray before it.

II.2

(1) One day, then, when he was on a journey, he passed a cross by the wayside which he did not see. His charioteer, however, had seen it, and when they came to some guest-house for which they had been making and had begun to pray before their meal the charioteer said: 'I saw a cross beside the way we have come.' (2) (Patrick), however, left the inn and went back the way they had come and prayed (before the cross); and there he saw a tomb, and he asked the dead man who had been buried there what sort of death he had died and whether he had lived under the faith. (3) The dead man answered: 'I was a pagan in life, and I was buried here. There was also a woman who lived in another province, and she had a son who died far away from her, and was buried in her absence, but after some days the mother came here in mourning, keening for the son she had lost, and in her distracted state of mind she mistook a pagan's tomb for the grave of her son and placed a cross beside a pagan.'(4) It was for this reason, Patrick said, that he had not seen the cross because it stood on the burial site of a pagan. All the more, his miraculous power was exalted in that a dead man spoke, and he who had died in the faith was made known and the meritorious sign of the blessed cross was transferred to its proper place beside him.

II.3

(1) Patrick had made it a habit not to travel from the evening of the Lord's night (i.e. Saturday night) until Monday morning. Once on a Sunday, when he was spending the night in a field in honour of the holy day, heavy rain and storm set in. But while the heavy rain raged in the whole country, the place where the holy bishop spent the night was dry, as had happened (in the story of) the shell and fleece of Gideon.

(2) (Patrick's) charioteer came to him and told him he had lost his horses and lamented for them as he would lament for dear friends, unable as he was to search for them because he could not see in the dark. This aroused the charity of the kind father, Patrick, and he said to the weeping charioteer: 'God, a ready helper in trial, in inconvenient times, will send help at once, and you shall find the horses for which you lament.'(3) Then he pulled up his sleeve, stretched out his hand, and raised it, and his five fingers, like lights, lit up the surroundings, and in the light of (Patrick's) stretched-out hand the charioteer found the horses he had lost, and ceased his lamentation. However, the charioteer who accompanied him kept this miracle secret until Patrick's death.

II.4

When, after so many miracles which have been written down elsewhere and which the world celebrates in pious language, the day of his death was approaching, an angel came to him about his death. He therefore sent word to Armagh, the place he loved more than any other, with orders that a number of men should come for him and bring him to the place where he wished to go. Then, with his companions, he began to make his way towards Armagh, his beloved place, as he had wished.

II.5

(1) Beside the road, however, a bush was ablaze, but it did not burn down, as had happened to Moses before. In the bush was the angel Victor, who often used to visit Patrick, and Victor sent another angel to Patrick to stop him from going where he wanted to go, and he said to him: 'Why do you go on a journey without Victor's counsel? Therefore Victor calls you. Change your route and go to him.'(2) And he changed his route as he had been told and asked what he should do. And the angel answered and said: 'Return to the place from which you come (that is, to Saul), and the four requests you have made are granted to you.'

II.6

(1) 'The first request: that your pre-eminence shall be in Armagh. The second request: that whoever on the day of his separation from the body recites the hymn that has been composed about you will be judged by you as regards the penance for his sins.'(2) 'The third request: that the descendants of Díchu, who kindly received you, shall find mercy and shall not perish.'(3) 'The fourth request: that all the Irish on the day of judgement shall be judged by you (as is said to the apostles: 'And you shall sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel'), so that you may judge those whose apostle you have been.'.

II.7

'Return therefore as I tell you, and you will die and go the way of your fathers.'. (This happened to him on the seventeenth day of March—the years of his entire life numbering one hundred and twenty—as it is celebrated throughout Ireland every year.)

II.8

(1) 'And you will suspend nightfall.' For on the day of his death there was no night, and for twelve days night did not fall in the province in which his exequies were celebrated, and it did not enfold the earth with its dark wings, and night was not so pale, and Hesperus did not send the shadows which bring along the stars; (2) and the people of the Ulaid say that to the end of the entire year in which he had deceased the nights were never as dark as they used to be, which beyond doubt happened in order to testify to the merits of so great a man. (3) If, however, any person should be inclined to deny that night was suspended and that in the whole province no night was witnessed during the short time while Patrick was being mourned, let him hear and note carefully how Ezechias in his illness, as a sign of recovery, was shown the sun going back over ten lines on the sundial of Achaz so that the day was nearly doubled, and how the sun stood still against Gabaon and the moon against the valley of Achilon.

II.9

When the hour of his death was approaching he received the sacrament from the hands of bishop Tassach for his journey to a blessed life, as the angel Victor had told him.

II.10

(1) During the first night of his exequies angels kept the vigil of his blessed body with prayers and the singing of psalms, and all those who had come for the vigil slept on that night. During the other nights, however, men watched by the body, saying prayers and singing psalms.(2) After the angels had returned to heaven they left behind them a sweet scent as of honey and a fragrance of sweetness as of wine, so as to fulfil what has been said in the benedictions of the patriarch Jacob: 'Behold, the scent of my son is like the scent of a fruitful field which the Lord has blessed.'

II.11

(1) When the angel came to him he gave him advice regarding his burial: 'Let two untamed oxen be chosen and let them go wherever they will with the cart that carries your body, and wherever they stand still, there a church in honour of your body shall be erected.' (2) And as the angel had said, untamed oxen were chosen and they steadily drew the cart containing the holy body placed on their necks. It was from a place called Clocher, east of Findabair, from the cattle of Conal that the honourable choice was made. And, guided by the will of God, they went out to Dún Lethglaisse, where Patrick lies buried.

II.12

And (the angel) said to him: 'Lest your relics be removed from the ground, one cubit of earth shall be placed on your body.' That this was done at the command of God has been shown recently, because, when a church was being built above the body, the men who dug up the ground saw fire burst forth from his tomb and retreated in fear of the flames of fire.

II.13

(1) At the time of holy Patrick's death bitter contention for his relics, leading even to war, between the Uí Neill and the Airthir on the one hand and the Ulaid on the other—tribes at one time neighbourly and friendly, now bitter enemies—came to breaking-point. (2) However, in order to prevent the shedding of blood, through the merits of Patrick and the mercy of God, an inlet called Druimm Bó rose high with swirling waves, and the crests of the waves burst into the hollow air and the quivering billows of the high flood rushed along as in a race, now surging up and now falling, and as if it were to check the animosity of the fierce tribes—for fierce they are—the wild sea rose and stopped the people from fighting.

II.14

(1) Afterwards, when Patrick had been buried and the overflow of the inlet had abated, the Airthir and Uí Neill rushed (again) into fight against the Ulaid. Fully prepared and armed for war, they had invaded the resting-place of the blessed body,(2) but they were misled by a fortunate illusion. They thought they found two oxen and a cart and believed they were taking away the holy body, and with the body and all their fighting equipment they got as far as the river Cabcenne, and then the body disappeared from their sight. (3) For it was impossible that there should be peace about such a renewed and blessed body unless, by the will of God, such a vision was shown them in time, lest what (was) the salvation of innumerable souls be turned to destruction and death; similarly, in ancient times the Syrians were blinded so that they would not kill the prophet Helisaeus, and by divine Providence were led by him as far as Samaria. So also this delusion was arranged to secure concord between the peoples.

 

 

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