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April 19, 2007

Three saints in one grave lie ....

In the churchyard at Downpatrick Cathedral, formerly a monastery dating back to St Patrick's work in Ireland, lies a large granite boulder, placed here in the ninteenth century to replace a rather battered marker. The great slab marks the spot in which are reputed to lie the bones of Patrick, Columba (Columcille) and Brigid. The bones of Patrick were moved from an earlier grave to here along with those of Columba (buried at Bangor) and Brigid on the orders of the Earl of Ulster, one Lord de Courcy in the twelth century when he paid for the rebuilding of the small monastery that once stood on this site. The size and form of the de Courcy monastery can be judged from the fact that the present cathedral is only the Quire of the former monastic church.

Legend has it that the bones of three saints share a grave here at Downpatrick's ancient cathedral. The inscription on this slab says simply "Patrick", but here too lie Columba and Brigid.

According to legend this reburial was foretold in a prophesy and originally the three saints remains were kept in reliquaries in the church where pilgrims could come and pray before them. Then came the dissolution of the monasteries and the reformation. The three saints were condemned to be burned as superstitious fakes and the records show that one Lord Grey supervised the burning of the reliquaries (stripped of their jewels and gold of course!) and the bones in the town square below the mound. Again, it is reputed that the monks had secretly buried the saints bones in the grounds and replaced them with animal bones before Lord Grey arrived. The tradition is certainly very strong in support of this, but the exact place of the reburial is now lost.

That said, it doesn't matter - Patrick, Columba and Brigid are still as present today as they ever were. The Monk, who is named for Patrick, felt very much in his presence here and spent a very valuable while in silent prayer and meditation in these ancient and hallowed grounds.

Posted by The Gray Monk at April 19, 2007 07:13 PM

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