St. Patrick’s Day will soon be here with all its colorful traditions, which makes this a good time to look at the legends surrounding the man himself. Most everyone knows some part of St. Patrick’s story, from his expulsion of Ireland’s snakes to his favorite color. However, on closer inspection, some of the commonly held beliefs about St. Patrick don’t stand up to scrutiny. It is doubtful whether young Maewyn Succat from Bannavem of Taburnia ever dreamed that he would one day be toasted the world over on his own special day, or that such stories would be told about his life.
- He was Irish: It is not known exactly where St. Patrick was born; his own writings note his birthplace as “Bannavem of Taburnia,” but this village could be in Scotland, Wales, England, or even the north coast of France.
- His name was Patrick: Patrick was the name he took on when he began his work for the church; some sources claim his birth name was Maewyn Succat.
- He was Catholic: There is some dispute about whether St. Patrick can be considered a Catholic; Protestant scholars note that Patrick wrote about his own beliefs and practices in a way not consistent with the Roman Catholic doctrine of his time. However, there is clear evidence that Patrick was ordained into the Roman church before he began his missionary work.
- He was the first Christian missionary to Ireland: He was not the first, but perhaps the third missionary to Ireland.
- He expelled all the snakes from Ireland: There is no evidence that this happened, and the Catholic church does not claim that it did.
- He used the shamrock to teach people about the Trinity: Again, there is no evidence to support this story; it is most likely apocryphal.
- He is associated with the color green: The original color associated with St. Patrick was blue, and furthermore, for many hundreds of years green was considered an unlucky color in Ireland.