Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ireland's Saint: The Essential Biography of Saint Patrick

St. Patrick was said to explain the Trinity with a 3 leaf clover.

Hore Abbey, Cashel, Ireland
Many monestaries and abbeys were organized
directly or indirectly because of
St. Patrick's influence.

Kylemore Abbey, County Mayo

Ireland's Saint:  The Essential Biography of St. Patrick was first published in 1905 as The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History.  The latter was written by John Bagnell Bury, a turn of the century Irish historian.  The book discussed in this review is the former written by J. B. Bury and edited by Jon M. Sweeney.  Sweeny also wrote the Introduction and compiled the annotations.  Ireland's Saint developed into "the most influential study of the saint ever written up until this point,"  according to Sweeney.  He also says Bury went against some scholars' traditional views of St. Patrick, yet is also "sympathetic to the tradition and legends surrounding the saint."  Today's scholars mainly believe, states Sweeney, that the only true sources from which to obtain facts about St. Patrick's life are The Confession and The Letter to Coroticus, the two existing works written by St. Patrick himself.

Bury describes St. Patrick's life very thoroughly.  Bury tells about stories from the legends and then refutes many of them.  A reader might expect Bury's writing to be scholarly.  His biography does contain much analysis, but his words seem fairly clear, though, if not a bit long-winded.  Sweeney inserts updates by more recent scholars throughout the book in columns set beside the text.  He also expands explanations and adds more information to make the work more accessible to any reader.

I would definitely recommend reading this book to start with if interested in St. Patrick.  I would also recommend reading other more recently published biographies.  It might also be interesting to read books that tell St. Patrick's story as the people in the Middle Ages might have known him legends and all.

Title:  Ireland's Saint:  The Essential Biography of St. Patrick
Author:  J. B. Bury
Editor:  Jon M. Sweeney
Publisher:  Paraclete Press
Copyright:  2008
ISBN:  13: 978-1-55725-557-0

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