QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-02 > 1108604819
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 20:46:59 EST
(http://ad.doubleclick.net/jump/reuters.co.uk/news/odd/article;type=SkyScraper;articleID=7632411;sz=120x600;ptile=2;ord=813287310?) St. Patrick, the
DUBLIN (Reuters) - He may have converted Ireland to Christianity,
immortalised the shamrock and inspired some of the world's most raucous street parades,
but Saint Patrick was also an astute operator, according to a new book.
The country's patron saint accepted land and jewels against the church's
wishes to fuel his 5th century evangelising mission and paid tributes to pagan
chiefs to woo them to Christianity.
One of the world's best-known saints, Patrick, whose feast day is celebrated
among Irish communities across the world on March 17, is normally portrayed
as a humble servant who died in poverty after establishing Christianity in
But he was quite willing to accept largesse along the way and the church
authorities were not pleased, historian Rob Vance told Reuters.
"Letters were sent to him rebuking him for accepting gifts in that it was
bringing the church into disrepute," Vance said.
Describing his new book, "Secret Sights II: Unknown Medieval Ireland," Vance
depicted a religious market-place where tribal leaders gave St. Patrick
land, women gave him jewellery and the saint himself had to offer gifts to smooth
"This was quite popular at the time," he said. "People would gladly donate
things to the church but it was difficult to keep track of this stuff and who
Many myths cloud the view of Patrick, who was first taken to Ireland as a
teenager when raiders kidnapped him from his Roman parents' British home and
used him as a slave.
He escaped years later but returned to Ireland as a clergyman where legend
has him introducing Christianity to the pagan island and banishing snakes.
Historians dismiss both.
They say there have never been any snakes in Ireland and that there is
evidence other Christians had attempted to convert the island before.
However, Patrick was an astute converter who attracted heathens by
incorporating pagan imagery into Christianity, celebrating Easter with bonfires and
placing a sun at the centre of the cross to produce a Celtic cross.
But taking gifts did not make Patrick corrupt, Vance said: "As an individual
he was a man of integrity: he was that rare somebody who genuinely had a
Instead, Patrick played hard for 40 years to make Christianity work in a
druid-dominated Ireland by targeting Irish Gaelic aristocrats, accepting the
gifts that came with it, and preaching meekness and patience to the poor.
Vance, who likened the saint's evangelical travels through Ireland to a
modern day rock tour, said he hoped his findings would begin a deconstruction of
the myth surrounding the man.
"Most of what is supposed to be Patrick is 19th century propaganda. He was
quite a rich man ... and running the show must have cost an awful lot of
money," he said. "But he was not a hustler."