Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

St. Patrick and His Blessed Crozier

Exactly where did St. Patrick come from? Scotland, England, Wales and also Ireland have been proposed as the birthplace and homeland of the Emerald Isle's most beloved national saint, but the most likely of all contenders for St. Patrick's birthplace is France, and his childhood home, Brittany.  Ancient accounts suggest it is from here he received his blessed crozier, An Bachall Iosa, or the Staff of Jesus.

First, you may well ask ~ how do you know for certain St. Patrick was a Frenchman?

(Well, he was of Roman lineage with possibly some Hungarian in the mix, but we'll get into that!)

Among the books in our home is an old treasure entitled “The Life of Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland” published by John Murphy in 1863. Although an old source, Murphy lays out his argument in favour of France, and I for one find it very convincing, although trying to figure out what he was trying to say in his old academic way was a challenge! However, here is a concise account of Murphy's study.

Starting with St. Patrick's own account, we find the saint gave very few details about his life, but revealed he came from a respectable family. His father was called Calphurnius, and his grandfather was Potitus, (or Otide), and they both took holy orders. After the birth of his children, Potitus became a priest.   I may have missed this detail, but apparently Murphy's history of St. Patrick does not say how this came about.  Either Potitus was a widower, or he and his wife may have separated upon his decision to enter the priesthood: in the ancient days it was possible for a man to become a priest if he decided to separate from his wife with her consent.  Calphurnius became a deacon.  Both their names denote their Roman heritage.

St. Patrick's mother, Conchessa, apparently came from respectable Roman stock as well: she was the niece of St. Martin of Tours who was born in what is now Hungary, the son of a Roman solider who was destined to become a bishop.  Yes, the same St. Martin that cut his cloak in half and gave the other half to a beggar only to discover in a vision he had given it to Christ.

As we can see, St. Patrick hailed from a very pious family, one with a famous saintly member associated with Tours, France, and from hence we start our journey of discovery. 

Murphy highlights the importance of Tours in St. Patrick's family history, together with an analysis of the ancient Irish hymn written by one of the the saint's disciples, St. Fiech, first bishop of Sletty and afterwards the archbishop of Leinster. St. Fiech was a young poet under the tutelage of Dubtach, the poet-bard of the High King of Ireland. After the famous night when St. Patrick defied the royal decree and lit his holy fire across from the royal seat of Tara, St. Fiech was converted along with the rest of the King's court by the holy missionary's preaching.  In his ancient hymn, St. Fiech declares St. Patrick was actually born at 'nemThur', the Old Irish meaning 'Holy Tours'. Being his disciple, St. Fiech obviously heard this information from the man himself, and therefore Murphy declares in his book that Fiech's hymn is very convincing evidence indeed. St. Patrick was born in Tours, France.

As to St. Patrick's family home existing in Brittany, Murphy directs our attention to an early writer named Probus, who apparently lived in the 6th century according to Bollandus. Probus writes:

St. Patrick was a Briton, of the village of Banava, in the district of Tyburnia, adjacent to the the Western Ocean, which village we undoubtedly find to have been in the province of Neutria (Nuestria), which giants are represented to have formerly inhabited.”

It is easy to see why many historians think St. Patrick came from British Isles since 'Briton' means a native or inhabitant of Great Britain, and was also the name of the people in Southern Britain during Roman times, however....

'Briton' is also the ancient spelling of 'Breton', or a native of Brittany. That region of France received its name from the tribe of Britons who escaped the marauding hoards of Saxons ravaging Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries. Murphy notes that Brittany was one referred to as 'Little Britain' among the early writers because of its ancient British ancestors, hence it is easy to confuse.

Considering St. Patrick's Roman roots and the family connection to Tours, Brittany seems the more likely of the two. Murphy continues the connection to Brittany through the original Old Irish wording of St. St. Fiech's hymn relating St. Patrick's escape from slavery and his subsequent period of theological study:

Patrick stayed in the “Andeas an deiscort leatha / An-innsigh mara toirrian” …

Murphy declares this should be translated to:

Southward of the southenmost part of Letavia / In the islands of the Touronian sea”.

He points out that ancient scholars mistranslated the Old Irish words 'leatha' (also 'lethu' in verse IX), mistaking it for Italy, when Letavia is the correct translation, which in the Middle Ages was known as 'Amoric Gaul', aka the northwest of France.  Another mistake was made regarding the islands of the sea: “toirrian” into “Touronian” does sound more accurate than the Latin translation of the hymn “In insulis maris Tyrrheni”, the “In the islands of the Tyrrhenian” Sea.

Hence, Murphy shows that Probus had used the incorrect Latin translation of 'Tyrrhenian' and not the Irish wording in his chronicle of the saint, which makes quite a big difference:

The Western Ocean (…) is in another part (of Probus' work) called the Tyrrhenian, which designates, beyond all doubt, the Turonian Sea, at the mouth of the Loire, and opposite the country inhabited by the Turones, or, as now denominated, the people of Turaine, whose capital, Tours, was a great city, even in the times of the Romans, but more celebrated afterwards for being the residence of St. Martin, St. Gregory, and a multiplicity of other illustrious men.” (Murphy, p. 43)

Therefore, if Murphy's analysis of a misunderstanding regarding Tyrrhenian for 'Turonian' in the ancient text is correct, St. Patrick lived in the district that lay next to the Turonian Sea, which would be Brittany. It would make sense that Patrick's family stayed somewhere near Tours if he was born there, and Brittany certainly qualifies.   

Notice the ancient map of France below dating from the 1600s - Tours is listed as "Turonia" (under the 'Celtica' region to the top left).  It is situated on the 'Ligeris' or Loire River which flows through Nantes, Brittany into the Atlantic.

Is there any trace of his childhood home left? St. Patrick himself said in his Confession that his family owned an estate called "Bannavem Tiburniae".

Looking at the second word, Murphy notes that 'Tiburniae' refers to the ancient Roman usages of 'Tabernae' referring to Roman encampments dating from the time of Caesar's invasion of Gaul, the word also referring to 'taberna', or the temporary shelter formed of wooden matierals. So, this would point an ancient Roman settlement, and of course, St. Patrick's family had Roman roots.   In recent times Rev. Marcus Losack has presented an intriguing theory as reported by Sarah McDonald in the "Irish Times" (Oct 28, 2013):

Marcus Losack argues that Château de Bonaban in Brittany is Bannavem Tiburniae. The site on which Château de Bonaban was built reportedly contains remains that date from the Roman era. These remains were discovered in the basement of the château in the 1870s but unfortunately they have since been lost through renovations. Rev Losack hopes an archaeological dig can take place that may reveal other evidence of a Roman settlement and possibly provide confirmation for his theory of St Patrick’s origins.

 He is currently in negotiation with the new owners of the château to see if this  is possible."

Backtracking a bit, in clarifying of the meaning of the 'Tyrrhenian Ocean' to be a misspelling of the 'Turonian Sea' and its location, plus finding a quote from a French source regarding St. Martin of Tours and his famous monastery, Murphy discovered and corrected a grievous error regarding the location where St. Patrick's received a portion of his theological training, by explaining how the word 'inch' was used among the ancient Irish:

To the natives of Ireland and Scotland it is well known that an isle in the sea, an islet in the loughs, lakes and rivers, a dry hillock in a morass, nay, sometimes a place nearly though not altogether surrounded by water, is, in Irish and Erse, an 'inch'. Islands of this sort were, in the primitive ages of Christianity highly sought for after for a contemplative retreat, by pious monk and ascetics. (…) In the isles of the Amoric Sea (i.e. the ocean next to Brittany), too, there are many such edifices. Nay, along the meandering banks of and torturous mazes of the fertilizing Loire, from Orleans, through Touraine, a district emphatically styled by geographers the garden of France, till it empties itself into the Turonian or Amoric Sea, many of the primitive saints of Gaul (France) built their cells and monasteries for religious contemplation. Among those (…) was out saint's uncle, Martin of Tours. This great Apostle, whose pious labours achieved the conversion of the western parts of Gaul from Gentilism to Christianity, and was originally 'the son of Roman Tribune, born in the year 316, (…) in the west of Hungary, was first compelled to embrace the profession of a soldier, though he always always showed a particular predilection for a retired life: from this , however, he was necessitated to withdraw in 374 AD, on being elected Bishop of Tours (…) . In order, however, to have less converse with the world, he built near the city of Tours, between the Loire and a sharp rock, the celebrated monastery of Marmoutier, which still exits, and is considered the most ancient abbey of France.' In this 'inch' (island) it was, and in some other 'inches' in the Turonian, and not in the Tyrrhenninan or Mediterranean islands, that St. Patrick fixed his residence for studying divinity (…) under St. Martin, and other holy masters after that saint's death.” ~ (Murphy, pp. 47-48. Murphy's French source in italics about Marmoutier, Il Morut a Candes, November 400.)

Of course, this makes sense: St. Patrick with his respectable family connections with the Church would most likely have stayed near Tours, not to mention Tours was also blessed with the leadership of St. Germanus, who was also bishop of Tours, who according to accounts was also St. Patrick's tutor. In the middle of the 9th century, Eric of Auxerre wrote about the life of St. Germanus and declared that he “considers it the highest honour of that prelate to have been the instructor of St. Patrick”, adding that he remained under St. Germanus' tutelage for eighteen years, who then recommended him to Pope Celestine who gave him the mission to evangelise Ireland. St. Fiech's ancient hymn also mentions St. Patrick studied under St. Germanus before heavenly visions alerted Patrick of God's plan to send him to Ireland. (Image: St. Germanus teaching St. Patrick, stained glass window in in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral.)

Futhermore, if Murphy's book is correct, then Patrick did not receive his famous crozier called Jesus's Staff in the Tyrrhenninan or a Mediterranean island as some historians continue to suggest to this day, but on the secluded 'inches' of the Turonian sea: he received his staff in Brittany.

After his stay in Rome, St. Patrick returned to the 'island', or rather, an 'inch' in the Turonian Sea and stayed among the barefooted hermits there according to Murphy's study of the sources. Sacred legend and history blend at this point. Some writers say Christ appeared and gave the staff to St. Patrick, other accounts relate a hermit on the island names Justus received the visitation from Christ and was ordered to bring the staff to St. Patrick. Other ancient chroniclers write its origin is uncertain, but St. Bernard declares it was covered in gold and precious gems. From sacred history and Tradition we learn St. Patrick carried out his duties as missionary bishop with it, and also not a few wonders, such as casting all the demons out of Ireland via the snakes, also, impaling a convert! (Read about that story here. Ouch!) According to tradition, the staff along with the Gospel text used by St. Patrick were transferred from Armagh to Christ-Church, Dublin. History says  oaths and treaties were signed on it.  During legal disputes and like contentions, to solve the issue the people would utter an oath on the Staff.  Apprently, no one would dare utter a false testimony while swearing by the power of the Staff, for it was believed if someone committed perjury in making their oath, great plagues would occur.   Sadly, the staff alleged to be St. Patrick's was burnt outside Christ-Church as a 'superstitious relic' a short time after the Reformation in 1538, its gold and gems confiscated.

In addition to all of Murphy's scholarship, there is another spiritual, mystical reason why I favour Brittany, France as St. Patrick's homeland and the site where he received the famous Bachall Iosa.

After Calvary, Brittany is the most blessed land chosen by God according to the approved mystic Marie-Julie Jahenny (1850-1941). Due to the Bretons' great devotion to the Faith, the Mother of God, and the Monarchy of France, Brittany will be spared most of the chastisements about to befall the earth before the Three Days of Darkness and it will become a place of sanctuary. Our Lady revealed to Marie-Julie Jahenny that since the time of Calvary she has not seen so many graces reserved for one place as for La Fraudais, Brittany. Therefore, Brittany shall in effect become a new Holy Land of grace as it will become home of the new Sanctuary of the Cross and the centre of Renewal regarding the One Holy Catholic Faith. France is destined to bring about the promised Age of Peace and the restoration of Christendom via the Reign of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and this reign will continue until the End of Time.

No, I'm not surprised such a holy man as St. Patrick destined to become the Apostle of Ireland, blessed with many graces and the gift of miracles, and, who received the promise that Ireland would be spared the destruction by fire that would ravage the world but would fall into the sea instead, should come from the protected land of Brittany, the 'New Holy Land' chosen by the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. (Learn more about Marie-Julie Jahenny and her prophecy of La Fraudais here.) 


If you liked this St. Patrick's Day Post, check out my other ones ....



  1. I was delighted to read your blog and thank you for posting it. I never read Murphy's book unfortunately but will try to rectify that. Needles to say, I agree with much of what you have written and continue to hope that someone in academia will take this further and argue greater respectability for the Breton theory of origins - which in my view is far more convincing. In my book Rediscovering saint Patrick - A new Theory of Origins (Columba Press 2016) I have argued that Patrick's family moved from Strathclyde in Scotland to Brittany at the time of the rebellion of Maximus in 385 Ce and that his mother Conchessa was pregnant with Patrick at the time of the migration to Brittany. So Patrick was perhaps conceived in Strathclyde (which was a Welsh Kingdom at that time!) and born in Brittany. So no one is really excluded from the story.

    1. Hello Reverend, first of all, thank you for your interesting research in supporting the Breton / France theory, and, finding the possible location where he was raised. Have you had any luck pursuading the owners of the property to have the dig go ahead? I'd be curious to see what may be found, but of course, permission might be tough to get, having someone root around the foundations of your historical chateau is going to be a tough thing to agree to! It's interesting St. Patrick's family might have actually lived in Britian (Scotland / Wales), resulting oral legends about thier presence there may have been the cause for all the confusion regarding his birthplace. Thank you for reading my blog. Re: about Murphy's book, I was blessed enough to have an old copy, but I hope this helps -- I found an earlier print dating from 1853 that's free to read online: hopefully it will have the same information. His book will take patience considering the old style of academic writing,relevant information is split through the book, and his sources were given in a haphazard fashion. Obviously he expects the reader to already be familiar with all the old chroniclers and their texts, but he does include sources and some documents, and also interesting history in the back of his book.