St. Patrick crafted a legacy that remains alive and well in the Emerald Isle and across the Atlantic. A handful of relics have been said to sport some connection to the man, from the well he purportedly used to the silver case molded for his severed arm. While their authenticity is questionable at best, these items’ collective cultural impact cannot be over-emphasized. Here are seven objects linked—in one way or another—to the life and ministry of Ireland’s Patron Saint.
1. St. Patrick’s Tooth and Its Shrine
Courtesy of Flickr user Dominotic
As its name implies, legend holds that the ornate “Shrine of St. Patrick’s Tooth” once contained an actual tooth Patrick lost while visiting the ancient church of Killaspugbrone. During the 14th century, a wooden box coated in gold, silver, and amber was assembled to shelter the hallowed tooth. Since then, its dental occupant has vanished, but you can still see this intricate artifact today at the National Museum of Ireland.
2. The Well of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
In 1901, the remains of an ancient well were uncovered near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. According to the church’s official website, it is “possible that this was the same well which St. Patrick used in the fifth century [to baptize Christian converts]” in the area. Even by the Cathedral’s own admission this is a fairly speculative conclusion, but if you’re at all interested in Irish history, the building is worth a visit.
3. The Bellshrine of St. Patrick
One of Ireland’s most famous relics, this bell claimed to have belonged to the Saint was placed in a shrine made of bronze plates at King Domhall Ua Lochlainn’s request during the 12th century.
4. St. Patrick’s Tombstone
St. Patrick’s earliest biographers state that he was buried somewhere around the vicinity of Down Cathedral in Northern Ireland. While it’s impossible to ascertain his body’s precise whereabouts, a “memorial stone” (taken from the neighboring Mourne Mountains) was placed on the church’s grounds in 1900 by the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club to mark the approximate location.
5. St. Patrick’s Croizer (“Pastoral Staff”)
According to historian Brian Mac Giolla Phadraig, tradition holds that St. Patrick received this rod “from a hermit on an island in the Mediterranean to whom it had been given by [Jesus] himself with an injunction to give it to Patrick when he should arrive." Although images of St. Patrick clutching the croizer are a common fixture in Irish artwork, the staff itself was denounced as an “object of superstition” and publically destroyed in 1538 by English invaders.
6. The Shrine of St. Patrick’s Hand
Disembodied appendages are rarely treated to their very own caskets. But when you’re revered as a saint, nothing’s too good for one of your amputated limbs. A silver holster was forged to envelop a severed arm and hand popularly believed to have been St. Patrick’s. But, like the religious figure’s aforementioned tooth, these bony remnants have also gone missing. The container is on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
7. The Confessio & The Book of Armagh
“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.” So begins St. Patrick’s Confessio ("Confession”), a letter the famed missionary composed late in his life. The candid document explains his religious convictions and reveals some important biographical details (for example, his father, Calpornius, was a deacon). While the original text has been lost to history, the earliest-known copy is recorded in the Book of Armagh, which was written during the 9th century & currently resides at the Library of Trinity College in Dublin.