Was St. Patrick Married?

Stained glass window depicting St. Brigid receiving her veil from St. Mel

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No, there is no historical or hagiographical evidence to suggest that St. Patrick had a wife. That’s not to say, however, that he didn’t take an interest in members of the opposite sex.

Case in point: After baptizing a woman from an elite family—who, in some accounts, turns out to be one of Ireland’s other patron saints, St. Brigid—Patrick reflects on how attractive she is. As Thomas Cahill explains:

“[Patrick’s] love for his adopted people shines through his writings, and it is not just a generalized ‘Christian’ benevolence, but a love for individuals as they are. He tells us of ‘a blessed woman, Irish by birth, noble, extraordinarily beautiful (pulcherrima)—a true adult—whom I baptized.’ Who could imagine such frank admiration of a woman from the pen of Augustine?”

source: How the Irish Saved Civilization

While seemingly innocuous, this is a highly unusual observation for a Catholic bishop to make. And it ties into a broader historical theme of Patrick not really caring too much about chastity. To quote Cahill:

“Where, in Patrick’s own story, is there any negative treatment of the temptations of the flesh? … It may simply be that Patrick, in his zeal to baptize—to wash clean—Irish imagination, was not as sex-obsessed as his continental brethren and felt little need to stress these matters… Even the monasteries he established were not especially notable for their rigid devotion to the rule of chastity; and as late as the end of the twelfth century… the kings of Clan Conaill continue to be inaugurated in the high style of their ancestors—by public copulations with a white mare.”

source: How the Irish Saved Civilization

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

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…


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…


The Story We Carry in Our Bones: Irish History for Americans

by Juilene Osborne-McKnight

Per the publisher: “Many Irish-Americans today know little about Ireland and their ancestry. Historian Juilene Osborne-McKnight presents Irish-American history in a compelling narrative form, accented with photographs, illustrations, and original, literary interludes. Osborne-McKnight pays homage to her ancestry in this chronicle of the Irish from ancient times to contemporary America.” 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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