of Celtic society, the soothsayers, magicians, and repositories of all learning in the days when no man on that island could write.


Saint Patrick

       Thus, into such a land, already comparatively advanced in the material fields of arts and crafts and the metaphysical field of religiosity, came the influence of Christianity, whose outstanding representative was the aforementioned Patrick. Though it is not generally known, there were Christian settlements in Ireland even before Patrick was held as a slave there, but they were confined to the southern tip of the island and were of little consequence.

       While much has been written of Patrick's escape and subsequent triumphant return to the island, a good deal of it has been romanticized to the point of absurdity. What he accomplished needs no adding to, for his deeds have come thundering down through the centuries on their own merit. History, however, demands an accounting without flowery froth.

       Whatever his personal gifts or his ability as a proselytizer, Patrick was, above all else, a very practical man as he went about his self-appointed task of converting the Celts to Christianity. Having been held captive by them for six years, he knew their language, their customs and their peculiarities of character, and he used this knowledge at every opportunity.




St. Patrick's Bell and Shrine

The bell is supposed to have been taken from St. Patrick's grave in 552, at which time it was placed in a shrine. The bell is of thin sheet iron coated with bronze, and it has an iron clapper. The bell is known as the Bell of the Will. Nothing remains of the original shrine; the present shrine was ordered by the archbishop of Armagh sometime between 1091 and 1105. The shrine can be dated this precisely because the name of the archbishop and of the high king of Tara are given in an inscription in Irish on the back panel.




       His overall strategy to win their minds and hearts was as sound as it was simple. He went straight to the rulers, the ri and the ruiri, with his message of the Good News. Knowing their penchant for debate, he engaged in near-endless exchanges of thought, all the time remaining the friendly persuader. At length, he convinced them of the validity of his teachings and, once that was accomplished, he further induced them to lead the way in spreading the Gospel of Christianity throughout Ireland. Then he merely stood back and collected the clans like so many sacks of ripe grain.

       That he was one of the Church's most remarkable men goes without saying, for what better attests to that fact than his conversion to Christianity of a warlike nation of people without the spilling of any measurable amount of blood? It must be noted, however, that Patrick did not live to see his work completed. It took another full century following his death in the late 5th Century to rid Ireland of its last vestige of paganism.

       Interestingly enough, this famed missionary left no personal monuments. What he did leave proved to be a far more glorious testimony to him than all the monumental bric-a-brac might ever have been: he left the Church firmly established in Ireland, and that institution soon began creating scholars the likes of which the world has rarely seen. It was these followers of Patrick who became the saviours of Western civilization and culture for a period of almost four centuries, while mainland Europe foundered through the Dark Ages.