[key], town, Down dist., E Northern Ireland, at the southwest extremity of
Strangford Lough. The town has linen mills and is a market for an area where
oats and flax are grown and sheep are raised. Hunting is popular in the
vicinity. The seat of the diocese of Down, Downpatrick has long been a
religious center; St. Patrick is said to have founded a church there c.440.
The present cathedral dates from 1790. In the town are remains of Inch Abbey
(founded 1180) and of the Monastery of Saul (foundation ascribed to St.
Patrick); a large rath and the holy wells of Struell are nearby. Downpatrick
has long been a place of pilgrimage, for the collective tomb of Ireland's
three great saints—Patrick, Columba, and Bridget of
Kildare—has been thought (incorrectly) to be in the town.
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