Saint Patrick and Poland

Celebrated on March 17, the national holiday of Ireland is extremely popular not only on the Green Island, but around the world. In Poland as well, St. Patrick's Day is one of the most celebrated foreign traditions. The cult of Saint Patrick, associated with the activities of the Catholic Church, is increasing in popularity.

St Patrick, Bishop The future Saint Patrick was born in Scotland, around the year 385, the son of the Roman decurion and deacon Calpurnius from Brittany and Conquessa of Gaul. When he was 16 years old he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to Ireland, where for six years he had to work as a shepherd. He learned the local language and became acquainted with local customs prevailing on the island. Eventually, he managed to escape from captivity, but never forgot the Green Island.

The bishop of Ireland

He went there as a Catholic bishop, sent on a mission by Pope Celestine I. His restless zeal, confirmed by many miracles, as well as his humility and prudence helped him touch the hearts of people despite the resistance of pagan princes.

Endowed with irresistible eloquence, Patrick drew thousands of Irish people to baptism, and having returned to the dedication of missionary work he led it with such success that soon the whole island was covered with churches and monasteries. The saint also founded several bishoprics, while pushing for the education of the clergy. In 444 he created the archbishop capital of Armagh, which quickly became the centre of ecclesiastical administration and education. He became responsible for teaching Latin and continually strove towards securing the closest possible union with the Holy See. During the thirty years he spent in Ireland, he managed to instil Christianity to such an extent that it became known as the "Island of Saints". He died on March 17 461, most likely in Armagh.

Patron of a Warsaw church

Church of St Patrick, Bishop (Warsaw) The cult of St. Patrick was already very widespread in medieval Europe. To this day it is very much alive in Ireland itself and throughout Europe, with Irish immigrants spreading his cult following across North America and Australia. Also in Poland, St. Patrick enjoys considerable deference, not only because of the long-standing Polish-Irish friendship. In Poland, St. Patrick is often compared to St. Adalbert (Wojciech), a missionary and the patron saint of Poland, who was not a Pole – just as Patrick was not Irish. In the Warsaw district of Gocław a church was consecrated in 2002 named after St. Patrick, Bishop. The church enjoys great popularity also in part due to its celebration of the Holy Mass according to the traditional Tridentine rite – in the same way that St. Patrick celebrated it many centuries earlier.

The cult of a hero

Interestingly, the popularity of St. Patrick in Poland is not only due to the close ties with the Irish, but also thanks to the Catholic Church as well as Polish academics, who put a lot of effort into researching the famous bishop. In 1911, the Polish folklorist and celtologist Stefan Czarnowski wrote an acclaimed work titled The Cult of the Hero & Its Social Basis. St. Patrick, The National Hero of Ireland. In the book, the author looked at how Patrick became a national hero in his country and how his legend helped shape medieval community. Also published in Polish, Stefan Czarnowski’s book popularized St. Patrick no less than Jacobus de Voragine’s famous Golden Legend.