St. Patrick of Ireland by Philip Freeman
A Biography

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Ireland's patron saint has long been shrouded in legend: he drove the snakes out of Ireland; he triumphed over Druids and their supernatural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths. We have no surviving image of Patrick, but we do have two remarkable letters that he wrote about himself and his beliefs -- letters that tell us more about the heart and soul of this man than we know about almost any of his contemporaries. In St. Patrick of Ireland Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life.
Born in Britain late in the fourth century to an aristocratic family, Patrick was raised as a Roman citizen and a nominal Christian, destined for the privileged life of the nobility. But just before his sixteenth birthday, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and abducted to Ireland, where he spent six lonely years as a slave, tending sheep. Trapped in a foreign land, despondent, and at the mercy of his master, Patrick's ordeal turned him from an atheist to a true believer. After a vision in which God told him he would go home, Patrick escaped captivity and, following a perilous journey, returned to his astonished parents. Even more astonishing was his announcement that he intended to go back to Ireland and devote the rest of his life to ministering to the people who had once enslaved him.
One of Patrick's two surviving letters is a declaration written to jealous British bishops in defense of his activities in Ireland; the other is a stinging condemnation of a ruthless warlord who attacked and killed some of Patrick's Irish followers. Both are powerful statements remarkable for their passion and candor. Freeman includes them in full in new translations of his own.
Combining Patrick's own heartfelt account of his life as he revealed it himself with the turbulent history of the British Isles in the last years of the Roman Empire, St. Patrick of Ireland brilliantly brings to life the real Patrick, shorn of legend, and shows how he helped to change Irish history and culture.

About Philip Freeman

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Philip Freeman is Qualley Professor of Classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a former professor of classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned the first joint Ph.D. in classics and Celtic studies from Harvard University and has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Divinity School, the American Academy in Rome, and the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. The author of several previous books, including Alexander the Great, St. Patrick of Ireland, and Julius Caesar, he lives with his family in Decorah, Iowa.Laurie Calkhoven is the author of many books, including George Washington: An American Life and Harriet Tubman: Leading the Way to Freedom. She lives in New York City. Visit her at Willis is an art director and illustrator working in New York City. Visit him at
Published March 17, 2004 by Simon & Schuster. 240 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical, Business & Economics. Non-fiction

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He describes Patrick’s Confessions, actually one of only two extant letters from the saint, as a “window into the soul of a person,” far more intimate than Cicero’s letters or Augustine’s Confessions and, as such, “like no other document from ancient times.” A solid grounding to the saint’s life ...

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National Review Online

Because the primary sources are so scarce–just about everything comes from a pair of letters Patrick wrote (both translated in an epilogue)–Freeman spends much of his time discussing context: pagan life in Ireland, the collapse of the Roman empire, the coming of Christianity, the monastic traditi...

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Project MUSE

Patrick, a British bishop, preached Christianity in at least some places in Ireland at some time between the fourth and sixth centuries and wrote two letters: one, later known as his Confessio, addressed criticisms of his ministry;

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