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Saint Patrick and the Cathedral

June 5, 2016  Posted in: Cathedral History, Cathedral Tales Saint Patrick window at Saint Patricks Cathedral

Very little information exists which provides definitive details about the life of Saint Patrick. He is said to have passed through Dublin in the 5th Century. According to legend he used a well somewhere in the vicinity (of what is now Saint Patrick’s Cathedral) to baptise new converts to Christianity.

In 1901 building works beside the Cathedral unearthed six Celtic grave slabs. These were subsequently dated to the 10th century. One of these large stones was covering the remains of (what looked like) an ancient well and its possible that this was the same well which Saint Patrick used in the fifth century. The presence of these stones do however prove that the site has been in use for at least one thousand years.

The first record of there being a building was in 890 when Gregory, King of Scotland, visited a church. The decision to build a church here was probably based on the possible connection with Saint Patrick. This site was then chosen in 1190 by Archbishop John Comyn to be raised to Cathedral status and eventually the small wooden church was replaced with today’s structure. Again it is likely that Comyn made the decision to elevate Saint Patrick’s on the supposed connection with the saint.

Over the years the Cathedral has become home to a variety of sculptures, statutes and windows which are all themed around the life of Saint Patrick. The traditional image of the saint, which has emerged over time, is of an old man wearing a mitre and holding a crozier. However, no sources exist to give us any idea of what the saint really looked like and the traditional image is probably very unrealistic. The saint never held any high ranking positions in the Church of his day and therefore he would not have worn a mitre.

The best source from the period is the “Confessio” which is reputed to have been written by the saint himself. A recent translation of this source into English can be viewed here.

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