Shrines of Britain: St. Patrick the Old at Glastonbury
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The Holy Shrines of Glastonbury in Somerset, Part 3
By David Nash Ford

ST. PATRICK
THE OLD

Enshrined at Glastonbury

Among the most important shrines at Glastonbury was that to St. Patrick, Evangelist of the Irish. He is usually thought to have been buried at Downpatrick in Ireland, but the West Country monks disputed this and claimed that after Patrick's episcopate in Ireland, he retired to Glastonbury and reluctantly took on the running of the abbey. He died there and was buried to the right of the High Altar in the "Old Church". This story was current as early as the 10th century and many Irish pilgrims are recorded to have visited his shrine. Unfortunately, doubt has been cast upon exactly which St. Patrick Glastonbury held; particularly due to their differing feast days (17th March V. 24th August). Some ancient records refer to two contemporary St. Patrick's in Ireland, one known as the 'the Old,' the other as 'the Young' or 'the Bishop'; the famous St. Patrick had a nephew of the same name, son of Sannan the Deacon, and there was certainly at least one other St. Patrick (ab Alfryd) active in Anglesey not long afterward. The Glastonbury man was originally known as Sen Patrick or Patrick the Old and thus it would seem that he was a completely different character from the banisher of snakes who we all know so well. Legend says St. Patrick the Old came from the Gower Peninsula in Wales. He travelled to Ireland and became great friends with St. Patrick, the Irish apostle, who told him that they would enter heaven together. But when the latter died, he had to wait five months before St. Patrick the Old joined him and the promise could be fulfilled. Modern scholars suggest that St. Patrick the Old may be an alternative name for St. Palladius, the original apostle of Ireland, sent by Pope Celestine to Ireland in AD 431, some twenty-five years prior to Patrick. Problems with the identification include his supposed death at Forddun in Scotland on 7th July.

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