St. Patrick Converts the Pagan King of Tara


St. Patrick, right, appears before the King of Tara and the Druid priests

St. Patrick, right, appears before the King of Tara and the Druid priests

After his three victories on the Hill of Slane [see here], the Saint was summoned to the presence of the King of Tara. With the help of Heaven, he and his company of eight avoided the soldiers sent to slay them. Thus, on Sunday, St. Patrick arrived at Tara and appeared before the astonished King.

The pagans had resumed their festivities. King Laeghaire with his court was at table, probably seeking to drown the terrible recollections of the previous day, when the man of God appeared amongst them.

The scene of the day before was repeated. The King of Tara remained seated, and all the royal party followed his lead, except two, who rose to honour the Saint. These were Dubhtach, the royal poet, and a youth named Fiacc, also a poet. The name of the latter, as saint and poet, has become familiar in the Irish Church. He became the chief bishop of Leinster and wrote the metrical life of St. Patrick in Irish.

The circumstance that they rose to meet St. Patrick is specially recorded, as to remain seated seems to have been, in the customs of the country, the form of protest against an unwelcome guest.

Patrick was then invited to eat and was offered a goblet of poisoned ale. The Saint blessed the goblet, and turning it over, the poison alone fell out in the sight of all.

When the party had arisen from table they adjourned to a plain outside Tara, and a great multitude went with them. Here the Druid Luchat Mael challenged the Saint to work wonders before the multitude.

In the contest which followed, God allowed the magician to exercise strange and preternatural powers, which turned in the end to his own confusion. By his spells and incantations he brought snow upon the ground up to the men’s girdles and involved the whole plain in darkness, but he could neither remove the snow nor dispel the darkness, both of which disappeared at the prayer of Patrick.

The King proposed that they should both throw their books into the water, and that whosesoever books came out dry should be declared worthy of adoration. Patrick consented, but the Druid refused, saying that the waters were Patrick’s god, for he had heard that it was through water that the Saint baptised.

St. Patrick preceded by the boy Benignus, who enters the fire on the Saint's order

St. Patrick preceded by the boy Benignus, who enters the fire on the Saint’s order

At this the King urged them again to try their books by fire, but the magician again objected, and said that this Christian, in alternate years, venerated either a god of fire or one of water.

The Saint at first had shown an unwillingness to seem to anticipate the designs of God by demanding miracles, saying, “I do not wish to go against the will of God.” But now he was inspired to make a proposal, which reveals at the same time the boldness of his own faith and the power which he had of imparting it to others.

He told his opponents that he adored, not any of the elements, but the Maker of all; and, as an evidence that his God was the ruler of these elements, he made a proposal which nothing but a special inspiration could justify. He challenged them to raise a temporary structure, of which one-half should be composed of dry faggots and the other of green wood.

Amidst the dry wood the boy Benignus, whom he loved, wearing the Druid’s tunic, would place himself, if the Druid, invested with the Saint’s casula, would consent to bury himself amongst the green wood. Then the structure should be set on fire, leaving it to God to defend His own.

The faith of Benignus was equal to the emergency, and the Druid at once accepted an ordeal in which all the chances were on his side. And when the pagan priest and the Christian boy had entered the house, the door was fastened on the outside, and fire set.

As Patrick prayed, he guided the fierce element, which consumed the Druid and the wet green wood around him, leaving the casula of the Saint untouched, while it passed through the dry wood and, surrounding Benignus, only burned the Druid’s tunic that he wore.

When the Christian boy came forth unhurt from the fire while the smoke of the magician’s torments ascended to heaven, it seemed as if the cause was finished. But it was not so. For King Laeghaire, irritated rather than humbled, like a wild beast, seems to have lost his reason in his rage.

“The King,” says St. Evin , “was much enraged with Patrick for killing his wizard. He arose and wished to kill him at once, but, through Patrick’s intercession, God did not permit this. … So then King Laeghaire knelt before Patrick and believed in God, but he did not believe with a pure heart. And on that day many thousands believed.

Then Patrick said: “Since thou hast believed in God and done my will, many days will be given to thee in thy kingdom: in punishment, however, for thy disobedience some time ago, there will not be king or crown-prince of thee save Lugaid, son of Laeghaire.”

This was because his mother besought Patrick not to curse the child that was lying in her womb. To this Patrick replied, “Until he opposes me I will not curse him.”

St. Patrick and his company before the King and his court

St. Patrick and his company before the King and his court

Thus was the first great conversion of the pagan court on Tara Hill in the year 433. From this time on, the waves of the new Catholic Faith and Civilization spread, until they had engulfed the whole island and paganism faded gradually away into the dim realms of traditional lore.

(Adapted from William B. Morris, The Life of St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland,
London: Burns and Oates, 1878, pp. 85-189)


Above: c. 400 CE, in Patrick's childhood, Britain was part of an intact Western Roman Empire.

Above: c. 400 CE, in Patrick’s childhood, Britain was part of an intact Western Roman Empire.

St. Patrick (387- circa. 461) was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, to Roman-British parents. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and sold as a slave to a Druid high priest. He worked as a shepherd and acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic language and the Druid cult, which later enabled him to evangelise the Celtic people. After six years an angel told him to flee his oppressive master and return to his native land. Upon returning to Britain, Patrick desired to devote himself to God’s service. He went to France and placed himself under the direction of St. Germain, who ordained him a priest and sent him to evangelise the pagans in Ireland. St. Patrick devoted the rest of his life to converting the island to Christianity. He was ordained a bishop and himself ordained many priests. He divided the country into dioceses, held local Church councils, founded monasteries, and urged the people to greater holiness. He suffered much opposition from the Druids and was criticised for the way he conducted his mission. However, he was so successful in his endeavour that in the Middle Ages Ireland became known as the Land of Saints, and himself the “Apostle of Ireland.” Later, the missionaries sent from Ireland to Europe are largely responsible for Christianising the continent.

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5 Responses to St. Patrick Converts the Pagan King of Tara

  1. toadspittle says:

    “King Laeghaire saw the sacred fire, and asked who it was that had violated his law. Then the Druids told him that if this fire were not put out before morning, it would never be extinguished, and that the man who had lighted it would be exalted above kings and princes. “
    How did the Druids know that? They were false, weren’t they?
    (Don’t be absurd, Toad – it’s all a lot of blarney. Excellent blarney it is too – to be sure, an’ all!)

    “…and paganism faded gradually away into the dim realms of traditional lore.”,
    Another fine old tradition down the drain. Where will it all end?


  2. Pope Benedict uses irrational Cushingism as a theology to interpret Vatican Council II and extra ecclesiam nulla salus : he was unaware of the choice

    Pope Francis, Pope Benedict and Cardinal Muller use an irrational theology to interpret Vatican Council II and so reject the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus


  3. toadspittle says:

    What on earth is a “rational theology”?
    …Apart from an oxymoron.

    “Pope Benedict uses irrational Cushingism as a theology to interpret Vatican Council II and extra ecclesiam nulla salus : he was unaware of the choice.”
    Oh, does he now? What next? Using irrational Cushingism to interpret Vat 2 ? You might as well use try using Logical Positivism to clean our your sink.


  4. Robert says:

    Toad aptly uses “..Excellent blarney..”
    This sums up his gullibility.
    Very Very few saints have the title Apostle! Their are Evangilisers, Missionaries, Doctors etc.. But St Patrick is APOSTLE.
    To even begin to understand the truth of Tara you have to look at Genesis. Here we find Moses coming down from His 40 days of prayer and fasting. Moses had seen God and His face was illuminated (think of the Transfiguration). So we find here with St Patrick. The similarities with Moses and indeed Elias become very clear.
    As with Pharoah so with the King of Tara. Demonic magicians, who were possessed! The Demons controlled and ran Ireland. In Toads folly he denies supernatural (non corporal intelligence!) . Now with St Patrick (as with Moses and also as with Elias) we have non corporal intelligences pitched against each other.
    The serpent mystically bit Adam and Eve and injected its poison into Our first (and only parents as created by God). So here we find poison!! (always sign of the serpent) used against the Saint.
    Read beyond and through the simply story and see the scriptural Truths and understand Toad’s Balloney (straight from the serpent) and see and begin to understand the greatness of St Patrick and his title APOSTLE.
    The Angel of Ireland St Victor and St Patrick. Its time Ireland that you throw away the Balloney of the servants of the serpent and Returned to the Faith (throw off Satans yoke).


  5. padraigx says:

    Toad, Druidism wasn’t an indigenous religion to Ireland, so it’s not a lost ‘old’ tradition. Archaeology shows they came from somewhere else, perhaps the Celtic warriors brought them from Egypt. The Druid priests practiced human sacrifice, so fine old tradition isn’t a description I would use. Btw, I enjoyed reading your post.


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