Saturday, February 20, 2016

A bit about the real Patrick ...

All the photos of statues from around the country show St Patrick wearing a bishop's mitre and a flowing bishop's gown, writes Garreth Byrne. This is an unhistorical image that gathered currency in the 19th century, with some help from the American Irish.

In 432 AD, he couldn't have dressed like that. That kind of ecclesiastical clothing would not have come into use until several centuries later. I think the Gaelic St Patrick would have had a shaggy long beard (which many statues & pictures show) and probably shaggier, long unshampooed hair.

He would have worn a thick animal skin cloak (deer?) over a coarse tunic, and might have worn coarse animal skin 'shoes' wrapped around his feet in order to trek long journeys through the damp virgin forests, over the hills and through the boggy open spaces. I imagine that his face would have had a haggard, wise aspect. He would have carried a hazel walking stick rather than a crozier.

I hope a sculptor can be commissioned to do a more realistic imagining of St Patrick, an ex-slave of enormous physical and spiritual energy who left a permanent mark on Irish culture.