Text: St Patrick, Epistle

The story of Saint Patrick is remarkable, given that he was born in Roman Britain, captured as a slave and taken to Ireland, and wrote about his experiences. Two letters written by him survive which provide valuable information about late Roman Britain. Unfortunately, however, the materials that survive “from him” are not without their own problems: we know very little about Patrick’s identity; his letters were copied into the Book of Armagh c.807 and may have been altered by clerics in an effort to boost the reputation and status of the church there and to make Patrick into a religious icon. The originals do not survive, only later copies, and much is disputed about the origins and identity of Patrick, including the years of his life.

The following is an adaptations of Newport J. D. White, Libri Sancti Patricii: The Latin Writings of St. Patrick. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1905.

§ 1. I, Patrick the sinner, unlearned as everybody knows. I confess that I have been appointed a bishop in Ireland. Most assuredly I deem that I have received from God what I am. And so I dwell in the midst of a barbarous heathen, a stranger and exile for the love of God. […]

§ 6. I make no false claim. I share a claim with those whom He called and predestined to preach the Gospel amidst no small persecutions, even unto the ends of the earth, even though the enemy casts an evil eye on me by means of the tyranny of Coroticus, who fears neither God nor His priests whom He chose, and to whom He granted that highest divine sublime power, that whom they should bind on earth should be bound in heaven.

§ 12. […] Far from the love of God is he who betrays Christians into the hands of the Scots [i.e., Gaels] and Picts. […]

§ 15. […] The Church, therefore, bewails and will lament her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who are banished and carried off to distant lands where sin openly oppresses, and shamelessly abounds. There freemen are put up for sale, Christians are reduced to slavery, and, worst of all, to most shameful, most vile, and apostate Picts.

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