St. Patrick: The Irish Legend (2000) TV



Director:  Robert Hughes

Starring:  Patrick Bergin (Patrick), Luke Griffin (Young Patrick), Alan Bates (Calpornius), Susannah York (Concessa), Malcolm McDowell (Quentin), Eamonn Owens (Benignus), Chris McHallem (Auxilius), Michael Caven (Iserninus), Stephen Brennan (Briain), Adam Goodwin (Brother Peter),  Alan Stanford (Paladius). 

The story of the man, Patrick, who converted the Irish to Christianity.

IMDb Registered user placid-3, who was a monk for many years, found a great deal of historical inaccuracy in the details of the story.  Most of us do not know enough about the details of Catholic Church ritual and writings to notice what placid-3 noticed.  (He did, however, enjoy the movie, despite its historical flaws.)  You can read the reviews at the IMDb data base website


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Pretty good movie.  In Ireland Patrick stops the sacrifice of a new slave woman to the pagan gods and then breaks up the sacrificial altar. 

5th century Britain.  Bishop Quentin complains to the other bishops that Patrick rules Ireland as if he was a high king.  He tells the assembled faithful that Patrick must be called back to Britain to answer for what he has done.  One of the biggest complains against Patrick is that he does not accept that the Irish church should be under the authority of the British church. 

So who is this man of faith Patrick?  In a flashback we learn about Patrick's early days.  We see that Patrick came from a wealthy family.  His life-long friend is Briain and we see Patrick showing Briain the site of the pagan festival of the new year.   

Back at home, Patrick's father Calpornius tells his son that he has to buckle down and study.  But at night time Patrick sneaks out to see the actual pagan ritual itself.  Meeting two friends there, all three participate in the pagan ritual.  In the morning, the celebrators are grabbed by slavers and Patrick is sold into slavery in Ireland.  He becomes a shepherd for his master.  In his hours of isolation God speaks to him, which makes him become very religious.  He says a hundred prayers during the day and a hundred during the night.  After seven years as a slave, a voice tells him to escape from slavery and return home. 

At home his parents are very happy to see Patrick.  They ask him what he would like to have and he replies simply: a Bible.  Calpornius wants Patrick to be involved in his businesses, but Patrick tells him that "I am the voice of the Irish."  He wants to cross the English Channel to Gaul to study to become a priest.   There he tells the head of the school that "I am to be the Bishop of Ireland."  

Patrick learns that Bishop  Paladius is to be sent to Ireland.  Patrick wants to go with him to Ireland, but the Bishop only says that they will send for him once they have established a foothold in Ireland.  Once in Ireland, Paladius finds himself running in horror from the Irish heathens.  He was headed for Rome when he suddenly died. 

Patrick is anointed Bishop of Ireland. But before he goes, he has to report to Bishop Quentin who insists that Patrick promise to answer to the church in Britain.  Arriving in Ireland, the snakes start immediately leaving the island.  (Of course, there never were any snakes in Ireland.) 

In Ireland Patrick is threatened with death.  So he decides to go straight to the top; to see King Leera.  The King tries to kill Patrick, but in rather fanciful scenes, God repeatedly saves Patrick as if by magic.  Patrick finally wins the King over and he is soon preaching to large audiences in the open using the clover plant to illustrate the concept of the trinity. 

Bishop Quentin's representatives arrive to tell Patrick that they are to set up a system of church taxes that will go to Britain.  Patrick remarks that Quentin's goal for Ireland is more clerks than clerics.  Patrick sends the representatives back home.  Supporters and disciples of Patrick tell him that his success in Ireland is causing envy in Britain.  Perhaps Patrick should show some sign of subservience to the British Church.  But Patrick will not hear of it. 

The final straw for Bishop Quentin is when Patrick dares to assert his authority in Ireland over a very bad, but very British citizen.  To get some dirt on Patrick, Quentin threatens Patrick's childhood friend Bishop Briain with the prospect of exile to Scotland.  Briain gives Quentin what he wants: the story of Patrick's participation in the pagan festival when he was a boy.  Quentin immediately jumps to the convenient conclusion that Patrick impressed the devil to help make himself successful.  Now Quentin's threat is that if Patrick does not report to Britain, he and his followers will be excommunicated. 

To make amends for his betrayal of Patrick, Bishop Briain goes to Rome to talk directly with the Pope on behalf of Patrick and his mission in Ireland.  When Briain returns, he has the documents signed by the Pope that affirm that Patrick will remain the Bishop of Ireland. 


The miracles performed by Patrick are a little too magical for my tastes.   He appears at times as more wizard than priest.  But the movie does give some idea of the difficulties faced by Patrick and his followers in spreading Christianity to the Irish. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historic Background:


Not that much is known about St. Patrick.  A lot of what is written about him comes from myths and legends.

432 --  Leary (one of Niallís sons) received St. Patrick at court; the Pope sent him as second missionary & bishop.

435  --  Prosper of Aquitaine, in his Contra Collatorem, praises Celestine for having restored Britain to orthodoxy and won Ireland to Christianity.

436  --  Last Roman troops leave Britain.

439  --  Bishops Secundinus, Auxilius, & Iserninus, are sent to Ireland to assist Patrick.

441  --  Patrick was approved in the Catholic faith.

444  --  Patrick founds church at Armagh.

447  --  death of Secundinus at 75 years of age.

459  --  death of Bishop Auxilius.

461  --  Patrick dies at Saul.

492  --  the Irish say St Patrick died in this year.


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