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St. Patrick

Christian missionary
Born: c.385

St. Patrick is said to have converted almost all of Ireland to Christianity within his own lifetime. He is now so closely identified with Ireland that his feast day, March 17 (the alleged day of his death), has become a celebration of Irish culture. He is a patron saint of Ireland, Nigeria, excluded people, and engineers.

Patrick is thought to have been born in Britain, perhaps to a Christian family. Tradition has it that he was forced into slavery in Ireland, escaped and became a monk on an island near present-day Cannes, and eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary. There are more legends than facts associated with his work in Ireland; the most famous tells how he cast out all the snakes (a pagan symbol). However, it is likely that if snakes ever had existed on the island, they would have been killed off during the Pleistocene ice age.

Besides being credited with Christianizing Ireland, Patrick is said to have introduced the Roman alphabet and helped to establish a written, and more democratic, legal code.

See also Encyclopedia: St. Patrick.

Died: c. 461

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