Cover image for St. Patrick of Ireland a biography
St. Patrick of Ireland a biography
Freeman, Philip, 1961-
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Publication Information:
[Place of publication not identified] : Tantor Media, [2004]

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5 audio discs (6 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 cm
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Compact disc.
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Audiobook on CD


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BR1720.P26 F74 2004C Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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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 super-natural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths. Late in the 4th century Irish pirates captured a young, British citizen named Patricius from his parents' Roman villa. The boy was sold into slavery and sent to tend sheep in Ireland. After walking nearly 200 miles across bogs and mountains to the coast, he managed to escape on a ship full of pagan sailors and returned home to the astonishment of his family. Patrick was destined for the privileged life of nobility but, when he experienced a profound religious awakening, he decided to become a priest and return to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. The Patrick who emerges is even more extraordinary than the patron saint of legend - a passionate, courageous, and very human figure who exerted an incalculable impact on the course of Irish history."A fascinating and believable introduction to Ireland's patron saint... a colorful picture of Ireland at the end of the Roman Empire: its kings and headhunting warriors, gods and human sacrifices, belief in the Otherworld." ~Publishers Weekly (March 2004)


Ireland's patron saint has long been shrouded in legend: he drove the snakes out of Ireland; he triumphed over Druids and their super-natural powers; he used a shamrock to explain the Christian mystery of the Trinity. But his true story is more fascinating than the myths.

Author Notes

Philip Freeman is a professor of Classics at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his Ph.D. in Classical Philology and Celtic Studies from Harvard University.
Alan Sklar is the winner of several AudioFile Earphones Awards and a multiple finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award. Named a Best Voice of 2009 by AudioFile magazine, his work has twice earned him a Booklist Editors' Choice Award, a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, and Audiobook of the Year by ForeWord magazine.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Born to an aristocratic British family in the fifth century, Patrick was kidnapped by slave raiders at age 15 and sold to an Irish farmer. After six years of tending sheep he escaped, walked 200 miles to a port city he had seen in a dream, and sailed for home. Years later, as a priest or bishop, he returned to Ireland. Bribing petty kings for safe passage through their rural domains, he preached, baptized and established churches in his beloved adopted land. This information about the saint's life is known from two lengthy letters he wrote late in life, both included in a lively translation by Freeman, a classics professor and author of three previous books about the Celtic world. Dismissing many familiar tales as myths, he relies on archeological discoveries as well as Greek and Roman writers to create a colorful picture of Ireland at the end of the Roman Empire: its kings and headhunting warriors, gods and human sacrifices, belief in the Otherworld. "I am a stranger and an exile living among barbarians and pagans, because God cares for them," Patrick wrote. Besides, time was running out: As Freeman observes, "The gospel had been preached throughout the world and was even then, by [Patrick's] own efforts, being spread to the most distant land of all. There was simply no reason for God's judgment to be delayed once the Irish had heard the good news." In the storytelling tradition of popular historian Thomas Cahill, this small book offers a fascinating and believable introduction to Ireland's patron saint. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

How do you write a biography of someone about whom what little is known may be myth rather than fact? Freeman's interdisciplinary strategy of analyzing both the texts of Patrick's time and the artifacts and monuments of his era allows a depiction of the world of the famous saint who converted Ireland. Thereby we learn, for instance, how slaves typically were treated in the years of the decline of the Roman Empire, and hence how Patrick was likely to have been treated during his years of captivity in Ireland. We learn about how Patrick might have interacted with Ireland's kings through examining the social structure of the late Celtic world. Well-researched and authoritatively written, Freeman's work may debunk some familiar stories, such as that of the shamrock sermon that converted the Druids (an invention dating centuries after Patrick's death), but it restores to the saint a complex, human dignity. --Patricia Monaghan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Those seeking the reality behind the legends of Patrick of Armagh would do well to start with this useful and highly readable examination of the saint's life. Freeman (classics, Washington Univ., St. Louis; Ireland and the Classical World) roots his investigation in two authentic documents that come from Patrick himself-his Letter to Coroticus and the Confession, a defense of his ministry. The examination of these sources within the contemporary context of Patrick's era reveals no all-conquering demigod but a semi-educated man of tremendous faith and courage. We see a Patrick who shows great care and concern for his new converts (especially slaves and women), whose life was constantly in danger from pagan Irish chieftains, and whose position was undermined regularly by jealous colleagues in Britain. Freeman's imaginative but fact-based reconstructions of significant events in Patrick's life, such as his kidnapping, read like the most exciting popular fiction. For those who wish to read further, a six-page annotated bibliography is included. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Christopher Brennan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Readers will be drawn into the story of St. Patrick by the short preface that tells how the teen Patricius, accustomed to a life of ease and luxury in Roman Britain, was surprised and subdued in his parents' villa by Irish slave traders who led him and household servants in chains to boats that took them to the feared barbaric island. Freeman has based his biography on medieval copies of two letters written by Patrick near the end of his life. Each chapter opens with a few lines from one of them. The author has fleshed out the story using information from archaeological finds, Roman and medieval records, and Papal documents. When discussing Patrick's home, education, or experiences in Ireland, Freeman notes that he is describing what was typical in the fifth century. As readers learn about Patrick's captivity, servitude, and escape, they also find out about life in Roman Britain and Ireland. Marriage, fostering, the role of kings, and the practices of the druids are only a few of the topics covered. This is not a heavy academic tome; explanations are simple and clear. A time line, pronunciation guide, and 13 black-and-white photographs of archaeological sites and artifacts are included.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Introduction Patrick's Life and Letters Fifteen centuries ago an old man in Ireland wrote two of the most remarkable letters surviving from ancient times. Patrick had labored for decades as a priest and bishop on this island at the end of the world -- labored, in spite of constant threats of slavery and death, to bring a new faith to a people beyond the realm of the crumbling Roman Empire. He also faced harassment from church officials abroad who thought him inadequate to the task and were perhaps jealous of his success. In spite of these difficulties, he succeeded in bringing a new way of life to the Irish people. Today millions around the world remember him every year during celebrations on St. Patrick's Day. Yet what is he remembered for? Driving the snakes out of Ireland, entering contests to the death with pagan Druids, using the shamrock as an aid to explain the Trinity -- all these are pious fictions created centuries later by well-meaning monks. The true story of Patrick is far more compelling than the medieval legends. This story is known best from two short letters written by Patrick himself, his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confession. That we possess these two remarkable documents at all is the result of Patrick being forced in his later years to write, first, a letter of appeal and condemnation to a slave-raiding king and his band of mercenary pirates and, second, a defense of his work against accusations by fellow churchmen. Though Patrick wrote neither of these letters as history or autobiography, they contain fascinating and precious bits of information about his own life as well as about Ireland during a turbulent age. The two letters are in fact the earliest surviving documents written in Ireland and provide us with glimpses of a world full of petty kings, pagan gods, quarreling bishops, brutal slavery, beautiful virgins, and ever-threatening violence. But more than anything else, they allow us to look inside the mind and soul of a remarkable man living in a world that was both falling apart and at the dawn of a new age. There are simply no other documents from ancient times that give us such a clear and heartfelt view of a person's thoughts and feelings. These are, above all else, letters of hope in a trying and uncertain time. The details that Patrick gives us of his life are few and often tantalizingly vague, but what we do know is this: He was born a Roman citizen in Britain in the late fourth century A.D. His grandfather was a priest, and his father was both a Christian deacon and a Roman decurion, an important local magistrate. He received at least a basic education in Latin, as would any son of the Roman upper class. As a teenager he committed an unnamed sin so horrendous that it almost destroyed his career decades later in Ireland. Soon after this sin, at the age of fifteen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates from his family's villa in Britain near a place named Bannaventa Berniae, transported across the Irish Sea, and sold into slavery along with many of his family's servants. For six grueling years, he watched over sheep day and night for a single master. He experienced a gradual but profound spiritual awakening during these years as a slave. This awakening included visions and warnings that he believed came directly from God and that would continue throughout his life. He escaped from Ireland on a ship of pagan sailors and eventually made his way back to his family in Britain. Later he returned to Ireland to spread the Christian gospel and was made a bishop. He preached in areas that had not previously known any missionary work, and he had many converts, including the sons and daughters of Irish kings, but many of his flock seem to have been female slaves. He experienced enormous difficulties, including threats, kidnapping, robbery, and other violence. At some point in his later years, a group of his newly baptized converts were killed or taken into slavery by a petty British king named Coroticus, prompting his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. Also later in his life, he was accused by his fellow churchmen in Britain of corruption. He vigorously refuted these charges in his Confession. But the letters of Patrick are not the only sources available for uncovering the story of his life and times. Archaeological excavations and discoveries shed a great deal of light on Roman Britain and early Ireland. Greek and Roman writers, although they never specifically mention Patrick, are marvelous aids in fleshing out the world he lived in. Later Irish traditions on Patrick, though full of legendary material, also preserve bits and pieces of genuine information. Taken together with his letters, these sources tell the story of an extraordinary man living in a tumultuous age. Copyright (c) 2004 by Philip Freeman Excerpted from St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography by Philip Freeman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.