Irish History From The Annals
The legendary burial place of St. Patrick at Down Cathedral Co. Down. Photo by Shiela O'Connor
The death of St. Patrick is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters in the year 493 when he is said to have been 122 years old. Although many historians now believe he died in the year 461.The Annals of Ulster say:
Patrick, arch-apostle, or archbishop and apostle of the Irish, rested on the 16th of the Kalends of April in the 120th year of his age, in the 60th year after he had come to Ireland to baptize the Irish.
The Annals of the Four Masters record a longer obituary.
Patrick, son of Calphurn, son of Potaide, archbishop, first primate, and chief apostle of Ireland, whom Pope Celestine the First had sent to preach the Gospel and disseminate religion and piety among the Irish, was the person who separated them from the worship of idols and spectres, who conquered and destroyed the idols which they had for worshipping; who had expelled demons and evil spirits from among them, and brought them from the darkness of sin and vice to the light of faith and good works, and who guided and conducted their souls from the gates of hell (to which they were going), to the gates of the kingdom of heaven. It was he that baptized and blessed the men, women, sons and daughters of Ireland, with their territories and tribes, both fresh waters and sea inlets. It was by him that many cells, monasteries, and churches were erected throughout Ireland; seven hundred churches was their number. It was by him that bishops, priests, and persons of every dignity were ordained; seven hundred bishops, and three thousand priests was their number. He worked so many miracles and wonders, that the human mind is incapable of remembering or recording the amount of good which he did upon earth. When the time of St. Patrick's death approached, he received the Body of Christ from the hands of the holy Bishop Tassach, in the 122nd year of his age, and resigned his spirit to heaven.
After his death there was the legendary Cath Coirp Naomh Padraic or the "Battle for the Body of St. Patrick" between the Ui Neill Kings of Tara, the Oirghialla and the Ulta (Ulaid) of Ulster. Eventually he was buried at the Ulaid site of Dun Da Lethglas now Downpatrick. The story is most likely a later invention inserted into the Annals as the Oirghialla Kingdom probably dates from the seventh century.
There was a rising of battle, and a cause of dissension in the province contending for the body of Patrick after his death. The Ui Neill and the Oirghialla attempting to bring it to Armagh; the Ulta to keep it with themselves. And the Ui Neill and the Oirghialla came to a certain water, and the river swelled against them so that they were not able to cross it in consequence of the greatness of the flood. When the flood had subsided these hosts united on terms of peace, i.e. the Ui Neill and the Ulta, to bring the body of Patrick with them. It appeared to each of them that each had the body conveying it to their respective territories, so that God separated them in this manner, without a fight or battle. The body of Patrick was afterwards interred at Dun Da Lethglas with great honour and veneration; and during the twelve nights that the religious seniors were watching the body with psalms and hymns, it was not night in Magh Inis or the neighbouring lands, as they thought, but as if it were the full undarkened light of day.