St. Patrick's Well

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume II, Chapter X-8 | Start of chapter

Near to Flynn's Inn—where we have halted with our readers during this digression—is a famous place of pilgrimage, St. Patrick's Well. The west of Ireland seems more particularly the inheritance of St. Patrick, for in this part of the island he spent much of the noviciate of his canonization. Respecting the birthplace of Ireland's apostle, there has been great difference of opinion; but his own confession—a work of acknowledged genuineness—proves him to have been a native of Armorica—a district of Gaul, now known by the designation of Boulogne.

The time of his birth, according to the best authorities, may be assigned to A.D. 387. At the age of sixteen he was made a captive by the Irish monarch, Nial of the Nine Hostages, who, after ravaging the coasts of Britain, extended his conquest to the maritime districts of Gaul. In Ireland the young Patrick was purchased as a slave, and served six years tending the sheep of a man named Milcho; in the seventh year of his slavery he escaped to the coast from his master, and, being received on board a merchant-vessel, was conveyed back to Gaul. Soon after his return he repaired to the college of St. Martin, near Tours, where, his education being completed, he entered into the ecclesiastical state. The condition of Ireland, buried at the time in the darkest paganism, had doubtless left a strong impression on his enthusiastic mind, and being warned by a dream, he turned his thoughts to the conversion of that country. It was not, however, until he was upwards of forty years of age that the long-coveted opportunity of undertaking his pious mission occurred, when he was sent by Pope Celestine as bishop to Ireland; and proceeding, after a short stay in Britain, to the scene of his labours, he arrived in the island, according to the Irish annals, in the first year of the pontificate of Sextus III.

His first landing is supposed to have been in or near the harbour of Dublin; but being repulsed there, and at some other places in Leinster, he steered his course to the coast of Ulster, and landed at a small port near Strangford. Here he succeeded in making some converts, and soon after he determined to celebrate the Christian festival of Easter in the very neighbourhood of the Hall of Tara, where the princes and states of the kingdom were at the time assembled. The result of this bold but politic step was productive of the happiest results. The monarch, Leogaire, the arch-druid Dubtach, and several of the lesser princes of the country became converts to Christianity. His spiritual labours from that time—though dwelt upon with fond minuteness by his biographers—present only a succession of triumphs similar to that which marked his great effort in the mighty work of conversion at Tara. Multitudes flocked to him from every quarter to receive baptism at his hands— churches were built, congregations formed, and priests appointed to watch over them, until the monstrous doctrines of paganism were effectually rooted out of the land, and the benevolent truths of Christianity planted in their stead. Having thus filled the greater part of the island with Christians and with churches, the saint completed his labours by establishing a metropolitan see at Armagh; where, resting in the midst of the glorious work he had accomplished, he passed the remainder of his days between Armagh and his favourite retreat at Sabhul, in the barony of Lecale, the spot that had witnessed the first dawning of his apostolic career, and now shared the calm radiance which attended its setting, and where, on the 17th March, A.D. 465, he died, having then reached his seventy-eighth year.