It has been established that Ireland before Patrick was a Pagan country. This meant that the Irish people believed in many Gods, much the same as the Romans did before Constantine converted the Empire. Irish people looked to the Druids as their spiritual guides. By the 5th Century we know there were Christians in the country. The jury is still out on who exactly is Patrick? and what had he done with Palladius?
Now…not wanting to confuse you but this passage might be a bit heavy…have a read…and I will sum it all up in the end
The first Christian mission to Ireland, for which we have definite and reliable data, was that of St. Palladius. St. Prosper, who held a high position in the Roman Church, published a chronicle in the year 433, in which we find the following register: “Palladius was consecrated by Pope Celestine, and sent as the first Bishop to the Irish believing in Christ.” This mission was unsuccessful. Palladius was repulsed by the inhabitants of Wicklow, where he landed. He then sailed northward, and was at last driven by stress of weather towards the Orkneys, finding harbour, eventually, on the shores of Kincardineshire. Several ancient tracts give the details of his mission, its failure, and his subsequent career. The first of those authorities is the Life of St. Patrick in the Book of Armagh; and in this it is stated that he died in the “land of the Britons.” The second Life of St. Patrick, in Colgan’s collection, has changed Britons into “Picts.” In the “Annotations of Tierchan,” also preserved in the Book of Armagh, it is said that Palladius was also called Patricius, and that he suffered martyrdom among the Scots, ” as ancient saints relate.”
Prosper also informs us, that Palladius was a deacon of the Roman Church, and that he received a commission from the Holy See to send Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, to root out heresy,and convert the Britons to the Catholic faith. Thus we find the Church, even in the earliest ages, occupied in her twofold mission, of converting the heathen, and preserving the faithful from error. St. Innocent I., writing to Decentius, in the year 402, refers thus to this important fact: “Is it not known to all that the things which have been delivered to the Roman Church by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and preserved ever since, should be observed by all; and that nothing is to be introduced devoid of authority, or borrowed elsewhere? Especially, as it is manifest that no one has founded churches for all Italy, the Gauls, Spain, Africa, and the interjacent islands, except such as were appointed priests by the venerable Peter and his successors.”
Palladius was accompanied by four companions: Sylvester and Solinus, who remained after him in Ireland; and Augustinus and Benedictus, who followed him to Britain, but returned to their own country after his death. The Vita Secunda mentions that he brought relics of the blessed Peter and Paul, and other saints, to Ireland, as well as copies of the Old and New Testament, all of which were given to him by Pope Celestine
Basically, before Patrick ever stepped foot in Ireland, a Roman bishop named Palladius was sent here 1 year before Patrick (431 AD). According to texts, Palladius was unable to convert the Irish and vanished off the coast somewhere believed to be in the Orkneys. What is KEY TO REMEMBER.. is that the texts say “to the Irish who believe in Christ”. Now here is whats unusual about that:
1. Apparently Irish people believed in Christ already..before Patrick came!!
2. Rome would not just send a bishop for the sake of it! Bishops cost money..lots of money!! You have to feed them, clothe them, house them. Therefore, Ireland must have showed that it was in need of a Bishop!
Even though Christianity brought important changes to Ireland, the people still lived pretty much the same as they always did. One major change was that the power of the Druids, who were pagan was greatly reduced and eventually replaced by Christian priests.
So there you have it…whether you are on team Patrick or Palladius isn’t that different. Christianity came to Ireland in the early 5th century and it was here to stay!
For more on Early Christian Ireland, be sure to keep it here!