Did St. Patrick Have Siblings?

illustration of dozens of saints commemorating All Saints Day

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In his Confession, Patrick asserts that he has “many thousands of… brothers and sisters.” Of course, in this instance, he’s referring to “the children whom [he] baptized in the Lord.”

But what about biological siblings?

While Patrick doesn’t mention them himself, tradition tells us that he had two sisters, Darerca and Lupita (sometimes Lupida). What’s more, it’s asserted that both of these sisters were abducted and brought to Ireland by the same raiding party that took Patrick. To quote Seumas MacManus:

“[A]t the age of sixteen he was taken captive, with his two sisters, Darerca and Lupida. It was a raid made by the men who sailed on a fleet of King Niall…They were borne to Ireland and his sisters said to have been placed in Muirthemne (Louth) while he was sold to an Antrim chieftain named Miliue, who set him herding his flocks in the valley of Braid, around the foot of the mountain, Sliab Mis.”

source: The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland

According to tradition, the siblings were eventually reunited in Ireland. And while Patrick’s sisters did not gain same the level of notoriety that their brother did, they did both become saints: St. Darerca and St. Lupita. (How’s that for some sibling rivalry?)

In the case of St. Darerca, she went on to have seventeen (or more) children—Patrick’s nieces and nephews—many of whom also became saints. These include daughters St. Eiche of Kilglass and St. Lalloc of Senlis, and sons St. Reat, St. Nenn, St. Aedh, St. Mel of Ardagh, St. Rioc of Inisboffin, St. Muinis of Forgney, St. Maelchu, St. Sechnall of Dunshaughlin, St. Nectan of Killunche and Fennor, St. Auxilius of Killossey, St. Diarmaid of Druim-corcortri, St. Crummin of Lecua, St. Miduu, St. Carantoc, and St. Maceaith.

Not to rain on this parade of saints, but I should reiterate at this point that the historicity of Patrick’s sisters (and his nieces and nephews) is questionable at best. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that when it comes to St. Darerca, it’s hard to be sure what’s real and what’s fantasy:

Much obscurity attaches to her history, and it is not easy to disentangle the actual facts of her history from the network of legend which medieval writers interwove with her acts.

source: “St. Darerca” (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)

Editor’s note: this article is an excerpt from “20 Questions With St. Patrick: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the ‘Apostle of Ireland’”


Further Reading

The Confession of Saint Patrick and Letter to Coroticus

by John Skinner

Per the publisher: “Beyond being recognized as the patron saint of Ireland (perhaps for having chased some nonexistent snakes off the Emerald Isle), little else is popularly known about Saint Patrick.  And yet, Patrick left behind a unique document, his Confession, which tells us much about both his life and his beliefs.  This autobiography, originally written in the fifth century, and short by modern standards, is nonetheless a work that fascinates with its glimpse into the life of an intriguing man, and inspires with its testament of faith.” Learn more…


The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland

by Seumas MacManus

Per the publisher: “A classic history of the Irish people from their prehistoric origins to their fight for independence in twentieth century. It provides fascinating insight into the origins of their culture, religion, laws, arts, antiquities, folklore, trade, literature, heroes, and more. MacManus sketches brilliant overviews of a number of the most famous figures from the country’s past, some of whom, like St. Patrick, allowed the Irish to flourish, whilst others, like Oliver Cromwell, persecuted them. ” Learn more…


How the Irish Saved Civilization

by Thomas Cahill

Per the publisher: “Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become ‘the isle of saints and scholars’ — and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.” Learn more…


St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography

by Philip Freeman

Per the publisher: “Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence.” Learn more…


Patrick

by Stephen Lawhead

Per the publisher: “Set in an era of brutal conflict and turmoil, this epic adventure is the first novel to tell the full story of the slave who became a saint, of the man who rose to the challenge of his time and changed the course of history. In the summer of 405AD, Irish raiders attack the western coast of Wales, carving a fiery swathe through the peaceful countryside. Among the survivors who are rounded up and taken back to Ireland is Succat: an impulsive sixteen-year-old son of a powerful Roman family.” Learn more…


Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland

by Tomie dePaola

Per the publisher: “An illustrated tribute to the Irish patron saint from the best-selling author of Quiet, Strega Nona, and many others. This timeless picture book, available in large-format paperback or as the board book Saint Patrick, is a perfect introduction to important Irish legends and an ideal St. Patrick’s day gift. Beloved children’s book author-illustrator Tomie dePaola recounts the life of Saint Patrick—from his noble birth in Britain, to his captivity in Ireland, to the visions which led him to return and found the first Christian church in Ireland.” Learn more…


Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

by multiple authors

A collection of 17 short stories, NEON DRUID mixes urban fantasy and Celtic mythology, creating a universe where lecherous leprechauns and debaucherous druids inhabit the local pubs, and where shapeshifting water spirits from Scotland and sword-wielding warriors from Ireland lurk in the alleyways. Stories range from tales of supernatural horror, to street-level fantasy adventures, to farcical, whiskey-drenched fairytales. Learn more…


More book ideas:


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