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April 17, 2007

Patrick's first church

The village of Saul lies just outside and to the East of Downpatrick, almost within spitting distance of Strangford Lough. This is the site of the first church established by St Patrick - in a barn given by the local chieftain, a man named Dichu. Also nearby are the Struell Wells, where Patrick is said to have baptised many of the local converts. The present church is a recent building designed and constructed on the pattern of buildings dating from the 9th Century onwards, Patrick's original building has left no trace since it was a wattle and daub structure with a thatched roof. The tower too, is a much later invention - this one dates from 1932 and is again a copy of towers built for refuge from the 8th Century onwards.

Saul Church.JPG
The little Church at Saul, seen from the top of Slieve Patrick, stands on the site of St Patrick's first church and is where he died in 461 (Or 490 depending on whose chronology you follow!).

The present Saul Church stands on the site of St Patrick's "barn" church, which was in it's turn replaced by a stone monastic church of the Celtic style, and then rebuilt in the 12th to 13th Centuries as the monastery expanded. The monastic buildings were torn down in 1539-40 and the church fell into ruin. It was rebuilt as it is today in 1932 to commemorate Patrick's arrival in Ireland as it's missionary apostle in 1932 - the 1500th anniversary of his return in 432 AD.

I found this to be a very holy place - and I found myself wondering what this very interesting man would have made of the church as it is today. Or, for that matter, the society that has grown from the world he helped to create!

Posted by The Gray Monk at April 17, 2007 08:01 AM

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