One story associated with the beginning of Patrick’s Mission, was his first visit to the Ard-Rí’s court at Tara, to defend himself against the charge of breaking an age-old sanction after he had lit the Easter Eve or Paschal fire on the nearby hill of Slane celebrating Easter of 432 AD; which clashed with the Druidic Feast of the Flames which ordained that the Ard-Rí should be the first to light any fire in the land on that night. The legend tells of Patrick’s defence of his action and his explanation of the Divine Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost); when he plucked a shamrock from the grass in front of him and used its trifoliate form to illustrate the three persons of the Trinity.Share
From this the shamrock emerged as an enduring symbol of Ireland and the Irish.
The reigning Ard-Rí Laoghaire (Niall’s son), was so impressed with the foreigner and his religion, he not only forgave Patrick his ‘fire offence’ of the previous evening on the Hill of Slane, but gave him leave to preach the Christian Gospel throughout his realm. Tara provided an ideal starting point for Patrick’s mission, being the hub from where five major roads radiated throughout Ireland.
The story of Ireland’s rapid Christianisation during Patrick’s lifetime (he died in 461AD) is subject of popular legends. (Read more.)