Saturday, March 17, 2012


Palladius (fl. 408-431; probably died ca 457/461) was the first Bishop of the Christians of Ireland, preceding Saint Patrick. The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion consider Palladius a saint.

It is believed that he is the same Palladius that is earlier described as the deacon of Saint Germanus of Auxerre. If this is the case, then he was the son of Exuperantius of Poitiers, of whom the contemporary pagan poet Rutilius Claudius Namatianus wrote: "Even now his father Exuperantius trains the Armoric sea-board to love the recovery of peace; he re-establishes the laws, brings freedom back and suffers not the inhabitants to be their servants' slaves." Exuperantius was apparently praefectus praetorio Galliarum ("Praetorian prefect of the Gallic provinces") when killed in an army mutiny at Arles in 424.

Palladius was married and had a young daughter. He is described as a friend and younger kinsman by Namatianus. Coming under the influence of Pelagius in Rome, he kissed his family goodbye in the manner of the Apostles, and lived as an ascetic in Sicily about 408/409, giving his daughter to a convent on that island. To this period is ascribed his authorship of six Pelagian documents. He seems to have been ordained a priest about 415, presumably after recanting the teachings of Pelagius (although at this time Pelagius was only condemned locally around Carthage, and not yet by the Pope, so it is possible that he would not have been required to recant). He lived in Rome between 418–429, and appears to be the "Deacon Palladius" responsible for urging Pope Celestine I to send the bishop Germanus to Britain, where he guided "the Britons back to the Catholic faith."

It is a question whether or not it is the same person who, in 431, was sent as first bishop to the Christians of Ireland: Palladius, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, is sent as first bishop to the Irish believing in Christ. According to Muirchu, who lived two centuries later, in the Book of Armagh, God hindered him...and neither did those fierce and cruel men receive his doctrine readily, nor did he himself wish to spend time in a strange land, but returned to him who sent him.

That Palladius is most strongly associated with Leinster, particularly with Clonard, County Meath. There is also a cluster of dedications in the Mearns in Scotland, where the village of Auchenblae is believed to be his last resting place. As late as the reign of James V royal funds were disbursed for the fabrication of a new reliquary for the church there, and an annual "Paldy Fair" was held at least until the time of the Reformation. Scottish church tradition holds that he presided over a Christian community there for around 20 years. His date of death is unknown; however, the Annals of Ulster contain the following references:

* 457 "Repose of the elder Patrick, as some books state"
* 461 "Here some record the repose of Patrick"
* 492 "The Irish state here that Patrick the Archbishop died."
* 493 "Patrick... apostle of the Irish, rested on the 16th day before the Kalends of April..."

Thus, it is possible that later writers confused Palladius and Patrick. If the earlier dates of 457/461 indeed refer to him, then it seems that the actual St Patrick died much later about 492/493. Patrick's mission was largely confined to Ulster and Connacht, while Palladius seems to have been active in Leinster, particularly in the area around Clonard.

The Vita tripartita states that he died at Cell Fine (thought to be modern-day Killeen Cormac, County Kildare), where he left his books, together with a writing tablet and relics of Peter and Paul.

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